New Location

Hi everyone,

I know, know. I move around the internet a lot, but I think I’ve finally found a new (and permanent) home over at blogger. I find it easier to custom design and share with others. So, if you’d like to keep following me (and my new adventures in South Africa), please join me at

gatesajarblog.blogspot.com.

Much love,

Emma

The Salesperson

The world teaches us to be cynical.

I was thinking this the other day as I exited Best Buy and began walking past the Tenleytown Metro entrance to cross the street. I looked up to see two young adult girls in matching shirts and just as I realized they were going to try to sell me something – bam – one of them made eye contact with me and there’s no going back now. She advanced, starting to say something to me, and I hurriedly had to mumble “…uh, no, thanks” and pick up my pace.

I scolded myself for looking up and giving them the opportunity to talk to me. If I hadn’t looked up, maybe I wouldn’t have even had to deal with them.

But wait a second…

What am I saying?!

Why was I dreading a conversation with another person? I had no idea what she was going to say to me. Maybe that would have been a really fruitful exchange. Why did I reject her so coldly?

The world has conditioned us to avoid and reject salespeople, yet we patiently wait through 4 or 5 commercial breaks during our favorite shows. Yeah, they probably want something from us, but they’re still people. We do the same thing with the homeless and needy that are everywhere. We pass them on the street. No, I don’t have money for you. We pass them in our neighborhoods. No, I don’t have time for you. We forget about them when we buy that new, expensive gadget. Yeah, this is more important than you.

I just don’t like it when people want something from me, especially if they have nothing to give. But what’s worse, I’m ashamed that I was so unkind to that lady. I’m ashamed, I know it’s wrong, and I keep on doing it again and again.

Earlier that same day, I’d had another run in with a salesperson. I had to go to the photo store to buy more matting board for my final photography project. The sales guy got a pack and asked how many I need. I told him just six, and he started to try to open the shrink wrap that held the pack of ten boards. After trying for about three seconds, he said, “Are you sure you don’t just want the whole pack?” with a sheepish smile.

Oh, why not make this guy’s day a little easier and not have to sound rude? “Sure, ok, whatever,” I exhaled. I had succumbed to the salesman.

“You’ll need them,” he replied confidently. Too confidently.

Yeah, right. Scolding myself again, I began to try to think of other craftsy things that might get rid of them in the future.

I left with my boards and a receipt for $8 more than I had intended to spend. I dropped them in my dorm room and didn’t really think much about them until last night.

At about 1:00 AM, I got an email from one of the girls in my Wednesday night photography class. She apologized for bothering me and asked if I had an extra piece of mat board she could buy.

I replied almost immediately with this:

“Hey girl! Don’t even worry about it. The guy at the photo store talked me into buying the bigger pack yesterday. I’m terrible at saying no. You don’t have to buy it from me!”

As my computer made the whoosh sound it makes when I send an email, a though came suddenly. He’d said that I’d need them.

Of course I know the tattooed sales guy at Embassy Camera isn’t some prophet who knew she was going to email me, but it’s still funny, don’t you think?

You never know what can come of sharing with someone and just hearing them out, no matter what it is they have to say. You don’t necessarily have to buy it, just listening really is enough. But maybe try to really consider what they have to say, even if they’re an overconfident salesman. After all… not many people wanted to listen to those pesky Biblical tax collectors either, and sometimes they did really awesome things!

I don’t know why I gave into buying those extra boards, but I’m sure glad I did. I just hope I can be reminded of this the next time I come upon someone reaching out to me and can respond with better than what the world has taught me.

The Blue Sign

It’s been over two months since I last wrote. Of course, being a college student, it’s quite easy and often necessary to get drowned in work and other obligations.

I need to start making time for writing more though – to write without the intent to please or to get a good grade. It’s therapeutic.

I had a stressful weekend full of those all too common feelings of self-doubt. It just really gets you down when you want so badly to do well at something, just to prove to yourself you can do it, and you don’t deliver. Oh, frustration.

Tonight I decided to go for a run (another thing I need to make more time for), since it had been such a beautiful, warm day. The DC Community of Christ is conveniently located about 1.5 miles from my university’s campus – the perfect distance for a halfway point. So, as usual, I headed out down Mass Ave.

I think a lot when I run. Actually, I think a lot all the time, but maybe I’m just more conscious of it because I’m trying to make sure I don’t pass out when I have to start going uphill before Wisconsin Ave. I think about people, interactions, regrets, wishes, future plans, questions, and more. Just after I cross Wisconsin, the path starts to go downhill, and soon enough, I can start to make out the illuminated blue sign. Almost there.

When I see that blue sign, I feel more like I’m running home than when I have to turn around and run back to campus. It is home. It’s the same blue sign that welcomes me to church in Sioux City. The same blue sign that welcomes me to the Onset campgrounds. The same blue sign that will welcome me no matter where I wander, even if it’s just waiting for me whenever I decide to wander back. The Community of Christ’s blue sign has become a beacon in my life. It’s always telling me it’s ok. You’re on the right track. You’re almost there. The same words I long to hear pretty much every second of my life.

Tonight, after I reached the church, I stopped to sit on the front steps and breathe for a second. Well, it wasn’t quite just a second. It was starting to get late, probably later I should have been out alone, but I just couldn’t leave. I began to wonder why I was where I was at that very second. After many thoughts, I still couldn’t articulate a perfect answer, but the night sky, illuminated as a deep navy blue by the city lights, caught my eye when I looked up to it for answers.

Blue is a good color for you, God.

There was not a single car on Mass Ave at that moment. A breeze came up and cooled the perspiration on my forehead. All too soon, the loudest motorcycle I’ve ever heard came zipping by along with a few other cars. I laughed.

So you could enjoy that moment, Emma. That’s why you’re here.

All are alike unto God

My mother is the best. I say this for numerous reasons, but one of them is that she celebrates my interests and supports me in them all the time. Recently, she sent me an email with an article she had read on CNN’s Belief Blog. She ended the note with “Guess I just get excited when I find devout Christians who are balanced.” Hey, mom, me too. So I decided to check it out.The Golden Rule

The article was about Joanna Brooks, a writer, a mom, and a Mormon. Brooks isn’t your average Mormon, and she’s had trouble with a lot of actions made by members of her faith, especially in excommunicating members for raising valid questions. She’s a Mormon feminist, married to a Jewish man, and raising her children in both faiths – I really don’t think you can challenge the norm much more than that.

She recently wrote a book, The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories From an American FaithIt was only $4 on my Kindle, so naturally I had to read it.

In it, she discusses her upbringing, feeling slightly alone knowing that none of her other friends were Mormon. Brooks was LDS and, as a girl, was left feeling that her highest calling was to emulate Marie Osmond. Then she discussed her years at Brigham Young University, and how everything changed. She met professors who were presenting their own ideas which sometimes challenged the teachings of the church at the time, the main one being an emphasis on 2 Nephi 26:33:

He denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.

On the day of her graduation from BYU, she handed her diploma back in protest of the professors she’ d seen fired for their teachings, and she has spent the rest of her life searching for a better way. She can’t separate herself from the LDS church and the home that she still finds there, but she doesn’t let her church tell her who she is. She blogs, writes, and speaks about what she believes and has found to be true, not what she is told.

“I want a faith as expansive as the skies above the Eastern Sierras at eleven thousand feet.  I want to rest my back against lodgepole pines with you and puzzle out the mysteries.  I want… a table with room enough for everyone:  male and female, black and white, gay and straight, perfect and imperfect, orthodox or unorthodox, Mormon, Jew, or Gentile.”

How beautiful is that picture? I love Brooks’ love, boldness, and vision. The Mormons take a lot of ridicule for their history and beliefs, but, in fairness, they have given it out too. We’ve all given it out. Brooks’ voice is refreshing in that she reminds us that we’re not all perfect, but it’s up to us to stand up where we see injustice, even if it goes against everything we’ve been taught to rely on.

I like Joanna’s story because it’s from a perspective we rarely see. I have a lot of respect for the Mormon faith and history therein, belonging to the RLDS/Community of Christ faith myself. Although most organized religion struggles to keep its “gates ajar” because of the inherent tendency towards an in-group and out-group, Brooks shows that individuals can provide the reminder needed to fight that inclination.

It’s a reminder we all need. All are alike unto God. Not just the people who look like you. Not just the people who believe like you. Not just the people who think like you. Not just the people who sit next to you in pews on Sunday. All. All. All. 

Everybody’s in, baby.

As you probably know, I love blogs, and I read quite few of them. My most recent discovery is Glennon Melton who blogs at Momastery. She is awesome. You might think that it’s a bit odd I’m reading a mom blog when I am a college student, and I wouldn’t argue with you. I just like Glennon because she’s real, been through some very tough stuff, and still emphasizes love and acceptance. What’s more, she doesn’t claim to know all the answers. I happen to like faith blogs that openly question and admit they don’t know any more than the next person. It’s refreshing!

On her “Meet Glennon” page, she states:

When it comes to God and faith and religion, I have some hunches… but I only know two things to be true –

  1. I am God’s beloved child.
  2. So is everyone else.

And if that’s not brilliant, I don’t know what is.

Glennon recently wrote a post, A Mountain I’m Willing to Die On, written as a letter to her son. It is beautiful and funny and so full of love, I just want to share it with everyone, and I highly encourage you to read it. She makes some really good points about society and faith, and I couldn’t agree with her more:

Christianity is not about joining a particular club, it’s about waking up to the fact that we are all in the same club.

&

Everybody’s in, baby. That’s what makes it beautiful. And hard. If working out your faith is not beautiful and hard, find a new one to work out.

Glennon definitely has her “gates ajar.” It’s so wonderful to read from a Christian perspective that challenges the norms and traditions that have grown to harden the heart of the faith, causing us to reject some of God’s most beautiful creations. Whether because of sexual orientation, race, gender, appearance, nationality, religion, economic status, etc., people are rejected all the time. It’s nice to be woken up, to remember that each of us is only one of 7 billion people on this planet and no one has everything exactly right.

Each time we point a finger at someone else, we can point another three back at ourselves for being judgmental, conceited, and selfish. Who are we to withhold the love that God has so freely given to us?

My church has nine Enduring Principles that define our message and mission. The last, “Blessings of Community” states:

The gospel of Jesus Christ is expressed best in community life where people become vulnerable to God’s grace and each other.

Vulnerable to each other. Open to each other. Everyone mutually honest and exposed, yet safe in knowing we’re all in this together.

We need to let this happen. We need to let people share all of their thoughts, feelings, and struggles, without fear of rejection. We need  to let people be different. We need to let them know “it’s okay, we love you.” We need to celebrate the exquisite diversity that God has purposefully weaved through humanity. We need each other.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa said:

If we could but recognize our common humanity, that we do belong together, that our destinies are bound up in one another’s, that we can be free only together, that we can survive only together, that we can be human only together, then a glorious world would come into being where all of us lived harmoniously together as members of one family, the human family.

How wonderful it would be if our world could open its gates to allow us to slowly get past the walls we’ve built. How wonderful it would be if we could get past our differences and prejudices to truly love everyone. This is my challenge to myself: to reflect acceptance in all of my interactions. I want my words and actions to say “I love you, I don’t reject you.” I encourage you to do the same. Whatever you believe and whatever you do, remember Glennon’s words:

“Everybody’s in, baby.”