Imperfect Knowledge

5104d43a0b5cf.preview-620The following is an excerpt from a talk I gave Sunday in my DC Metro area ward.

We are very fond of using the language of certainty when we speak of the gospel, when we give our testimonies, and when we share our faith with our friends and family. We love to say “I know…” and we do so with such confidence that it becomes a linguistic tic of Mormonism. “I know the church is true…” What does that even mean? And what message does the language of unwavering certainty send to people whose faith is formed from different mettle? We sometimes imagine proclaiming knowledge is solid and comforting, and perhaps to some— or even to many— it is, but as an adult convert, I believe the framing of certainty, of “knowing” as the only expression of testimony can actually create an unintended gulf between members of the body of Christ’s church. Continue reading

Reminder: Spiritual Vampires

This is a post I wrote a few years back. It’s actually kind of astounding how important this is to remember.

tumblr_kyjj6fEIV91qzwfhoo1_500

Dear children, of all the wisdom imparted on me by your father, one of his greatest lessons was that there are such people as vampires. Oh, now, don’t be all silly- as much fun as it might be to imagine moldering old French vampires preying on the criminals of New Orleans, or as shallow and vapid as those sparkly versions that came later might be- that’s simply misdirection.

The vampires you must be careful of- the vampires that are not fun to imagine but who do exist and can actually harm you are Spiritual Vampires.

Common folklore tells that a vampire cannot see their reflection in a mirror. Spiritual Vampires cannot see their own reflection in anything. A Spiritual Vampire cannot see how they effect others or what repercussions their actions have on other lives and souls. Even more damning, they refuse to see or acknowledge their part in anything that happens in their lives. Everything— everything— is the fault of someone else. It doesn’t matter how many loving people try and give them genuine feedback, try and guide them, plead with them, hold up mirrors (if you will) for them to see themselves accurately, it doesn’t work. The Spiritual Vampire cannot see themselves except from their own side.

Just like a French Vampire or a sparkly one (if you insist. sigh) these vampires prey on the weak or those who wish to please. It’s in their interest to keep people naive to their natures, and they will obfuscate and manipulate and deceive, and the part that makes them so (very, very) dangerous is that they believe their own lies. When prey ceases to surrender to the narrative of the vampire, when the mark starts to question the story, or look askance, the vampire must slander or excise that person from their lives, lest the fear of being discovered- or worse, having to look at themselves. This must be avoided at all costs. All roads lead to their own control. A person who actually sees the Spiritual Vampire is a great threat to their perceived well-being.

These folks burn through friends. Or at least, what they call ‘friends’. It’s impossible to cultivate a real friendship with a vampire, because they cannot let go of their control, or of their insatiable thirst for validation of their own rightness of position. It’s not blood they need to survive, but undying loyalty to their rigid beliefs. Do remember, the weight of their own construct is crippling. Have pitty. But don’t get too close.

If you find yourself engaged with a Spiritual Vampire, your life actually can be in danger— no, you won’t be exsanguinated— but your energy, your identity, your will to power, your individuality, your unique opinions and sense of self will all be expected to be sacrificed upon their altar to support their construct and beliefs. And all that you have to offer will never be enough.

In fighting this kind of vampire, just as in the models of yore, sunlight is your best weapon. Fling open the windows, invite in fresh air, speak what you know as your own truth, and never be sucked into the idea that you are responsible for anyone else’s self worth. Never let anyone convince you that they are the arbiter of yours, either. Treat people with love, kindness and honesty, take responsibility for your own actions, don’t manipulate, control or blame others. Stand in the sunlight. If anyone tries to tell you that you owe them more… get out your mirrors. Or…just get out.

The emotional and psychic drain of a Spiritual Vampire is real, children. Consider yourself warned. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to watch old reruns of Buffy. (Of course that’s true for a multitude of situations and is always good advice.) Now, here, eat this garlic bread and go play. Love, Mama

Random Crap: End of the School Year

IMG_3748

We got some fire. It’s amazing how mesmerizing fire is- the kids have been having a blast making s’mores.

Every year, I forget what a tornado the end of school becomes. Everyone has assemblies, ceremonies, activities, parties, testing, recitals, practices, and promotions. It’s pretty clear I forget, because I also had the bright idea of scheduling everyone their dentist appointments and physicals as a fun addition. Then add in two surprise business trips back to back for Jon, out of town friends popping in (though wonderfully welcome, I haven’t figured out- yet- how to be three places at once) and family visiting.

No wonder staying in bed all day binge-watching Star Trek and Friends sound so good.

I have a small promotion coming up for Father’s Day- details forthcoming. I think we’re giving away a handcrafted watch Jon’s been test-wearing. It’s truly beautiful, if not completely practical. It’s okay for some things to be extra pretty, but not suitable for pressure washing the house, right? I think so.

IMG_3886

Jeffrey won an award for being good at playing the baritone. He’s pretty excited, as you can see here.

As of next week, I have a high-schooler. It’s so weird- this is where my own autonomy kicked in, and I’m watching my kid make that transition. He’s counting down the days until he can get his driver’s license, he’s considering playing football, he’s tested into AP classes for the fall, he’s half a foot taller than me and can pick me. It’s weird.

Bean’s Home-Schooling Adventure is… well, it’s almost over. I’m less than impressed with some of the support from the district— big surprise. They let a week lapse before the teacher even contacted me, and now the school doesn’t want to pay her to make up the hours. Again, big surprise. Never mind they have a legal obligation to provide him with a certain amount of hours of instruction. Yes, less than impressed.

IMG_3760

Abby’s cruising along- she’s going to have a modified curriculum next year, and spend time every week in a separate classroom doing math, writing and science at her own level. This is a very good thing; she’s bored all the time in class, but she’s had two really good teachers for third grade, so at least there’s that. She’s also decided to make origami as tiny as humanly possible. See above.

Me? I’m considering some big changes for next year. Not ready to talk about them yet, but they involve retooling grad school courses and maybe biting off something new. We shall see.

IMG_3889

We managed to brave the beltway traffic and catch dinner and a move at this fancy place. It was good.

Now I have to go drag my teenager out of bed. His alarm just went off and Simple Minds is crooning at me from down the hall to don’t you forget about me… it’s really weird my kid is listening to music I remember slow-dancing to in 7th grade. He’s older than that me. Weird. Getting the kid up now.

Onward. The only option.