Random (an not necessarily organized) thoughts on blogging and other things

Last week I read _The End of the Spear_, a book by Steve Saint about evangelical missionaries who had gone to the deep Ecuadorian jungles in the 1950’s. The first five missionaries were killed by the natives, but the son a slain missionary (the author himself) returned to the place where his father died. He continued preaching and living among the people, eventually being fully accepted into the tribal family and helping hundreds decide to “walk the God trail.” Steve Saint later spent 18 months with his wife and children deep in that jungle, continuing his ministry and showing the way to forgiveness and peace by the authority of his own life.

Given my love for Guatemala, reading the book brought back not only memories but desires to return, and the familiar guilt I sometimes suffer because I have so much. There were moments when I felt I could no longer bear living in such luxury or with the perpetual sense of haste and structure.

This morning, I was reading the Book of Mark and came across the words, “For he [Jesus] taught with authority, and not as the scribes.” Put that on top of another book I read last month–_The Great Divorce_ where an Episcopal bishop is so concerned with his theological questions and so caught up in his speculations, that he cannot accept the REALITY of Heaven or Christ. He has made everything an abstraction and himself the great authority on the speculations he has come up with (such as the idea that if Jesus had just lived a little longer and had not been crucified, his religious thought might have really matured.)

So I’m writing a quick blog about blogging.

I should say that I truly enjoy blogging and enjoy the thoughts which are respectfully exchanged. (I don’t care for contention, but fortunately that happens rarely on T&S.) I have a sense of the personalities of many of the Bloggers and like them a lot. Nonetheless, there’s something of the scribes in us commentators and philosophizers. We examine many important ideas and make fine points. But I am thinking about how stripped down the gospel is for me in Guatemala. It is the bare-boned, Jesus gospel–as it clearly was for Steve Saint in Equador.

My Spanish is good, but I can’t expound on important subjects with the kind of vocabulary I can in English. My Cakchiquel is limited to the most basic conversational words. And I LIKE being linguistically limited, because it forces me to use other means of communication—body language, laughter, facial expressions. My limitations also prevent me from assuming any kind of “high-minded” position. My advanced degree is of absolutely no relevance in Patzicia. I am simply a fellow traveler.

I am always impressed by the knowledge of my fellow Bloggers, but I’m also curious about their lives. In Patzicia, I sometimes took long walks with my Cakchiquel sisters and we just talked, and maybe did a little shopping at the marketplace. We are also taking long walks as we have on-line conversations, but the fact that all we see of each other is our words (and educated words they are) does leave some gaps.

“Jesus taught with authority, and not as the scribes.” For me, that indicates that it wasn’t what his said or wrote which carried authority, but who he was—which others could sense. That’s what I miss on blogs—the actual presence of the writers, the eye to eye. I know that each “scribe” is living a remarkable life, and I recognize evidence of great, courageous faith in many comments. Sometimes we read each other generously, and other times we don’t—but I suspect that kind of thing would not happen if we were physically in a room together.

I’m going to end this post rather personally by telling you that I’m a young-looking, past-fifty, redhead who loves the Lord, and who also happens to be a struggling mother, a loving wife, and (by the way) a writer. If I could take you to the sacred places of my life, they would include a little hut in Guatemala, where I sat by the first LDS convert of the city and sang Spanish hymns as he died. I would take you to the Provo temple, where I serve as a veil worker and where once I heard my friend Susie speak clearly–despite the fact that a stroke had robbed her of language. I would take you to the monument of Jane Manning James, who I consider to be the first Civil Rights activist of Utah and who I have felt as a very real presence in my life. I would introduce you to my four children and tell you how glorious each is, even though we get to deal with things like eating disorders and basic sins. I would introduce you to my husband, who is brilliant but—far more important—is genuinely good.

These are some of the sacred places I inhabit and the people who are dear to me. And no matter how interesting or well-written (or how badly written) any of my blog posts might be, they will never fully convey who I am at my core, and why I cling to my faith as I do.

15 comments for “Random (an not necessarily organized) thoughts on blogging and other things

  1. I’m sorry for my spelling. (In Spanish, Equador is spelled with a C.) Sorry I left off the “d” in and and misplaced a few commas. I am proof that English teachers need to revise their work just like anyone else.
    Nonetheless, the message should get past the mechanics.

  2. The message gets past the mechanics almost every time, Margaret, which is why I like blogging here and with the two or three other blogs where I comment (and why I avoid a few other places — their messages get through just as clearly). Face to face is nice, but most of us would never meet each other at all if we were limited to that. I’m glad for however much of ourselves we can share — even if it’s through a keyboard, darkly. Thanks for this.

  3. Margaret,

    One of the great joys of blogging comes in getting to interact with people I’d otherwise not know of. Thanks for this post, and for your heartfelt celebration of simple faith.

  4. Margaret,

    I have been frequenting T&S for several months now but have never made a comment. I often fear my thoughts on the matter at hand are not astute enough, or, I fear that I won\’t be able to communicate effectively in writing. Your post gave me space to comment. So first, thank you for that. Secondly, I just wanted to let you know that, although I am sure a face to face exchange would be that much more powerful, I am always very touched by your posts. The spirit is able to see your message through to its reader. I guess its something similar to Nephi who also is concerned about his \”words written in weekness\”: they are \”made strong\” (2 Nephi 33:4). But, let be clear. I in no way think your words are weekly written. I am just speaking to your concern about the written word versus the spoken word.

    Also, I just recently listened to the pod cast you did a while back on Mormon Stories. I just wanted to let you know how insightful that was for me, a subject I really needed to understand more clearly. So thanks for all you do.

  5. Margaret, I want to add to what the others said, that it’s been a joy getting to know you through your posts and your podcast. It might be because I’m rather deaf to the unspoken language of gestures and expressions in real life, but I definitely feel the spirit carries through your words. I feel I know you as a person. I also love Guatemala. I get to go again next Christmas, and I can’t wait. I also feel a strange feeling whenever I think about the difference in what I have versus what the people of Guatemala have. It’s just an odd disconnect. I just ordered pizza, as expensive and nonnutritious as it is, and lots of Guatemalan children languish in developmental disorders from inadequate nutrition. That doesn’t seem right. But how do we fix it? There’s got to be a way.

  6. This was beautiful Margaret. You make me ache for Guatemalan mountains (what are you doing in Patzicia? Teaching at that school Randall Ellsworth built?)

  7. Margaret, I think part of the appeal of participating in a forum like this is that it enables familiarity in ways that even face to face communication sometimes does not. Here we can forget all the dumb stuff like what we look like and what we like on pizza and what the weather will be tomorrow and talk about things that are important and often very personal. So I agree with Ardis – usually, the message comes through loud and clear.

    Best wishes with your kids. I’ve concluded that there will never be a time when we don’t worry about them.

  8. Tatiana: But how do we fix it?

    Like you said, itecusa.org, and one of my favorites: http://www.christianchildrensfund.org

    Other good ones with low overhead and fundraising expenses
    (as a percent of donations) are:
    and International Rescue Committee, http://www.theirc.org/

    To read ratings of charities, see their overhead/fundraising expenses, see:

    And we have the opportunity to contribute the church’s Humanitarian Assistance Fund on the donations slip along with tithing.

  9. Thanks for these thoughtful comments. Fashion Chavez-Rabe–I’m thrilled that you finally commented! And Tatiana, I’m curious about your connection with Guatemala. Thanks for the website! I enjoyed looking at it.
    Yes, Rusty, we worked with the Rose Foundation (and hope to do so again sometime soon).
    I agree with everyone that blogging lets become acquainted with people we might not have known without this innovation. And I do thoroughly enjoy it. Nonetheless, there is something that comes with our physical presence that often doesn’t get past the writing.
    Last night, Bruce and I watched the DVD of _The End of the Spear_. Not as good as the book, but worth seeing. A particularly moving moment shows one of the missionaries speaking the language of the tribal people even as he’s dying, saying, “I am your sincere friend.” Those words begin working on the tribesman who has killed him, who ultimately asks that his heart be cleansed of violence.
    I know that my trained, academic vocabulary has sometimes hindered my instinctive goodness, because I am very capable of cutting someone to the core. (I do it rarely, usually when I’m hormonally challenged.) Those are the times when I wish my vocabulary were reduced to the bare essentials of who I am and what I believe.
    The other line from the movie (and the book) which has stayed with me is “God had a son. He was speared, but he did not spear back.” Very Levinasian–but it wouldn’t matter if I knew how Levinisian it was. The words are simply true and invite us to open ourselves to “spearing” without returning in vengeance.
    Anyway, those a are a few random thoughts.

  10. Margaret, End of the Spear was a pretty darn good movie too. Maybe you already saw it. I occasionally try to push it on the ‘Nacle.

  11. LOL … I actually tried to read through everything to see if you mention the movie only to read your last comment after I posted. I give on up on myself.

  12. You mentioned other massacres in Utah, on your MormonMentality comment.
    I\’m in the awkward situation of knowing quite alot about the Cedar Tribe and almost
    nothing about other Indians and mass killings or tit-for tat between them or them
    and the pioneers. My Thrice Great Grandparent\’s family was burned out by Utes
    after traveling behind their wagon, which I think was used as a sick wagon,
    the healthy members had handcarts. The Danish Saints were not poor and had sent much money ahead for cattle–more than 5,000 dollars. In Deseret there was
    no food, no cattle–nothing.

    My Great-Great-Grandfather came to avoild Prussians who regularly drafted boys
    into the Prussian Army by telling them to get their shovels and come along.
    They were then told to help out by killing Jews, primarily, of various ages and then burying them. We don\’t know about the Third Grand Uncle. He may be under
    that cairn.

    I know much about the Cedar City Pi-Edes as they called themselves, their interactions with the Spanish and at the Time of the massacre–but not much about other bands. Not even much about The Black Hawk War and Cheif Walkara. I can\’t read print and getting books recorded is an increasingly
    rule bound process, so I\’m wondering if you can give me an overview and
    answer a question from time to time.

    My Grandfather\’s father was the Bishop of the Cedar Ward. He had cabins for
    people touring in Automobiles. He also outfitted Powell after convincing him
    that a side trip to Cedar Breaks and Bryce Canyons. He was collecting Anthropological material about the Piutes and Western Shoshone.
    This sounds like some material I\’ve found on the web but my back ups down.

    So I wonder, not having anyone to read for me now, what you know about other
    Utah Law excluding torture that falls under the heading of Utah/Cherokee Indian Law. Also the translation of the names of tribes beginning with Pi or Pa
    and where they lived. Referrals would be helpful. My Grandpa is dead or he would be the one to ask. I wish this whole mess was over. I think Larry
    King, out of halter for the first time in his life, was involved in the Texas Raid
    from the filming of September Dawn.

    I\’ve been sick since 1982, but was able to go back to school for two years in between 2000-2004. I just wrote. Maddeningly I\’m going down hill again.
    Xanga wants to cancel my 6 sites. Anyway, let me know if you can give me a
    brief answer on the Indian massacres–of or by, or someone who might want to
    work with me on the project,


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