20 October 2006

It's about love, pt. 1

Some few of you may not have picked this up about me yet: I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In that setting, with a small handful of other leaders, I have an assignment to work with a group of just under a dozen young women ranging in age from 12 to 18. The smallest pie wedge of this group is made up of the few who have fairly deep roots in our faith, those whose families have taught and supported them in understanding; another wedge is made up of those who are relative newbies still scratching their heads, either because they're relatively fresh from baptism, or else haven't yet immersed themselves in the waters of involvement and learning; the remaining wedge is made up of those who are wholly unacquainted and unaffiliated with the LDS religion. Of these, two Latina sisters and their cousin are gracing us pasty white girls with their exciting presence, and have found that we are fun to have canyon campfires and parties with.

Last Sunday it was my turn to teach this group of young women. Generally, we draw from lessons from a Church-published teaching manual. These lessons are great overall; I love them because they are sensitive and sound, and also (this is a selfish reason) because they have built-in structure, which is a relief for somebody like me who is not so naturally skilled in the fine art of creating lessons and teaching. Well, the president of our group asked me a couple weeks ago to come up with a different kind of lesson, one that pulled from the most recent General Conference of the Church. Okay, I thought, so now I must freestyle. Only two days' and three night's worth of the inspiring talks of umpteen male and female speakers to choose from--nooo proooblem. I can pull this together in a week . . . an anxious, sleepless week.

But my saving grace was that I'd had a dream a couple weeks prior to this; it was the second of what have turned out to be (so far) three rather personally important teaching dreams I've had this year. As I considered the possible meanings of the dream, I sensed some strong direction and was able to map out what talks I should focus on. Because of the nature of the dream, I was very anxious to prepare as well as I could, and I worked on the material for many hours. I have to say it was so good for me. I really needed to study what I did for that class, and really spend time with the concepts. That's so amazing to me, the way teachers seem to get so much more from their lessons sometimes than anyone else. I'm not sure this was the case in this instance, but I believe it was.

It was the Gomez trio's first Sunday situation with us, their first-ever Church class, and I'm guessing that includes all churches. I had hoped for their attendance, along with the other two wedges, and anticipated my need to address many different levels of understanding and misunderstanding. I went into that hour fasting--you'd better believe it.

If you're at all familiar with so-called Mormon Standard Time and also the way classes occasionally go haywire with announcements and business, you will empathize when I say that when all was said and done it ended up I had very little time to teach this lesson I'd worked so hard on. First, we had to wait for the Gomez girls to all come out the bathroom and stop fussing with their makeup, and then we were inundated with parents and bishopric members, as it was the day when the class presidencies were to be reorganized, which meant time spent in explanation, votes of release and sustaining, followed by the newly-called officers being "set apart" and blessed with the rest of us present to share in the experience. Nobody'd told me this big event was on the docket for the day.

So, yeah. I got a few minutes after all of this to speed-teach. But that's not a complaint; the other business of the day was just as important. It was simply unexpected.

It was an amazing experience to try to teach a lesson about God and his love for us and our relationship to him to this eclectic group. Several things I said left the Gomez girls wide-eyed and stirred them to put down their cell phone and ask questions like: "Does God like the ganstas? Does he like the punks?" "When it rains, is He mad?" And in response to my statement that we have a prophet living today, one shouted out, "Where is he?!" and was anxious to see his picture.

We didn't make it through the whole lesson, which is sad, but I believe we covered what was most needed for that day. Still, I keep turning the thing over in my mind, trying to learn it myself, because it is so basic and so often I lose my connection with the concepts. It's so easy to get swallowed up by the wrong perspective.

I think I'll adapt some chunks of my notes for posting here. If anybody wants to play class with me as I go along, that would be a real pleasure. Here's how it starts, with a sweet hymn:

God is Love

Earth, with her ten thousand flowers,
Air, with all its beams and showers,
Heaven's infinite expanse,
Sea's resplendent countenance--

All around and all above
Bear this record: God is love.

Sounds among the vales and hills,
In the woods and by the rills,
Of the breeze and of the bird,
By the gentle murmur stirred--

Sacred songs, beneath, above,
Have one chorus: God is love.

All the hopes that sweetly start
From the fountain of the heart,
All the bliss that ever comes
To our earthly human homes,

All the voices from above
Sweetly whisper: God is love.


b. said...

When the teacher is ready the student will appear......
(or is it the other way around?)
Whichever.....I'm here on the front row.
ps. that hymn really is BEAUTIFUL

compulsive writer said...

Granted I'm typically on the back row, but wherever I am in this class you've got my undivided attention...

Becca said...

I'm ready to learn from you anyday.

Johanna said...

I'm in class too.

(OH I remember those Sundays in YW. Those girls are lucky to have you for an hour or 10 minutes. I just found out a friend who I never *pictured* losing her faith has. It has made me think more of the importance of supporting and strengthening each other in and expressing our convictions of the gospel. You're so good at both.)

Geo said...

Ladies, thanks. No gum under the seats, please. And there will be a pop quiz after each of my droning lectures . . . .

joh: Every time I see somebody I love spin out of orbit I anxiously mumble to myself some knock-on-wood version of the sentiment: "There but for the grace of God go I." Faith is so easy to lose if we don't tend it, or don't choose the most sustaining and sustainable ways to meet our own needs. I believe you're so right that unity and compassion and sharing help us keep ourselves and our faith together.

You can give pop quizzes too, o teachers!

Jory Dayne said...

Geo -- gotta love those moments when the spirit really comes in and qualifies what you were guided to say. Teaching by the spirit and with the spirit is an incredible feeling. This was really uplifiting to read, thanks.


Geo said...

Jory! Jory! How nice to have you here again! I'm honored! I will pay you a blog visit soon . . . .