Naked From the Waist Up

BookshelvesOver my lifetime, I have had at least 4 dreams that turned out to have profound significance.  For two of them, it took decades of recurrence before their meanings were manifest.   For the other two, their message was clear as a bell at the get-go.

Tonight, I’m going to share the most recent one.  It came sometime in the fall of 2016.

In the dream, I was on a sales call with my top sales person.  As this was a highly important potential customer, he’d asked me to come along.  We walked in the front door and up to a counter.   Two people were behind it.  The counter was chest high.  I rested my arms on it as my companion made the introductions.

It was then that I noticed a huge and embarrassing problem.  My sales person was dressed in appropriate business attire.  Be me?  His boss?  There I was, perched on the front counter…..without a shirt on my back.  Oh man, was I ever rattled by that sudden realization.  How the hell did this happen?  How am I going to hide my nakedness from the prospect?

But….no one was staring.  That was odd.  Three others in the lobby.  None were casting furtive glances at my naked torso.  Were they just being super polite?

My embarrassment heightened, as I considered the ramifications of ruining this prime opportunity.  My stupid and disrespectful appearance was certain to get me kicked out of the executive’s office.

Shortly, we were escorted into the room where the meeting was to occur.  The head man was not there…yet.  Several of his employees were.  They presented a full array of gender & ethnicity.  All appeared to be young.  In their 20s or early 30s.  The office had the appearance of a crowded library.  All four walls lined with bookcases filled to the brim.  The books were are varied as the people.  Their spines colorful.  Some small.  Some tall.  Most having a classic, antique look about them.

A drafting table and accompanying lamp were pushed up against one set of bookcases.  In front of it, an elevated drafting chair.  It’s occupant was turned to look directly at me and my shirtless body.  The other people were seated behind antique leather-topped desks.  Or standing with an open book in their hand.  Me and my sales person were also seated in elevated drafting chairs.  There was nothing in front of us.  Nothing to block what I was so anxious to hide….me.

We small talked.  I’m usually pretty good at that.  But, there was something in the air.  Part discomfort.  Part anticipation.  And a little bit of electricity.  I could sense it…but couldn’t quite put my finger on what I was feeling.

After talking to one person, I turned towards another.  What the hell!  He doesn’t have a shirt on anymore!  When did he take it off?  Why did he take it off?  No way was I going to ask.  I acted as if I didn’t notice.  After all, everybody else seemed to be pretending not to notice MY toplessness.

I turned around again.  Another person was now naked from the waist up.  This time a young woman.  In the dream I could see that she had taken her shirt off.  But, I didn’t snap to fact that she was bare breasted.  Somehow I didn’t notice that.  Only that her shirt was gone.  More electricity in the air.  A feeling of huge anticipation.  Something important was about to happen.

The door opened.  In walked the boss.  Immediately, I knew exactly who he was….Mark Zuckerberg.   Facebook’s founder.  The electricity evaporated.  The anticipation dissolved.  I was screwed.  Somehow my sales person had landed an appointment with a billionaire and I showed up in my birthday suit, from my belly button up.

Then…. it slowly dawns on me.   He doesn’t seem to notice my nakedness.  He pays no attention to his two employees who are also shirtless.  I look around the room.  What the heck is going on?

Mr. Zuckerberg sits down on the lone remaining drafting chair.  He leans back and rests his elbow on the bookshelf behind him.  He appears casual and comfortable and intensely interested….in something.  I turn my eyes away from him to the opposite corner of the library.  What!!!  Another employee has shed his shirt….with his boss sitting right there in the same room.

I turn my head back to face the dominant figure who is still framed by the colorful & magnificent books behind him.  And there he was….leaning back….elbow resting on the shelf….and….naked from the waist up.  For some reason, his shirt is now gone.  Scanning the room again, no one had anything on above their belt.

Immediately, the beautiful interpretation of my dream burst open.  My nakedness represented being open and vulnerable.  When others took their shirts off, it meant they had recognized that they were in a safe place.  They could now reveal who they really were.  Even the billionaire responded with naked openness.  A blaze of lively and heartfelt conversation spontaneously erupted.

I don’t remember what was shared in that room that day.  What I do know is that the electricity in the air was the wonderful anticipation of the possibility of being who we really were, out in the open, with no fear of  judgment.  Judgment, that we so often conceal our true selves from.

Honesty.  Openness.  Vulnerability.  Empathy.  Authenticity.  I have a new found love for these gorgeous ideals.  Today, I go naked from the waist up, as often as its safe.

More Families Walk Away in the Houston Texas South Stake

couple

I just sent the following email to my good and hard working Stake President.

Dear President___________,

Over the past 3 months, two more solid couples in our stake have left the church.

In addition, yesterday I received this message:

“I wanted to check in to see when the next Talkeria in Sugar Land might be. I just met with someone in the South stake who is navigating a faith crisis.”

I bring these three families to your attention because I know you care about your flock.  Often, when members leave the church, it isn’t noticed.  For example, for over 2 years, you, me and the bishop discussed the possibility of creating a safe space for saints to talk about their questions & doubts.  During that time period,  9 families in the ward stepped away from the church.  When I share this statistic with ward members, they are incredulous.  Never-the-less, the 9 families have left.

The situation with people leaving is not unique to the LDS.  Last night, I came across a fascinating article.  It might be helpful, as you and the bishops continue to wrestle with this issue.

It was written by Rick Brown, the Religion Columnist for the Sugar Land Sun.

He told the story of the doubting apostle, St. Thomas.  And then said, “If you’re in a season of doubt, here’s what you need to know.”

“First, be honest with your doubts.  Thomas was.  When Thomas stepped into a place of honesty about his doubts Jesus stepped into the room.  Being honest with your doubts is a necessary part of faith.”  (My commentary:  It’s hard to be honest with your doubts when you have to keep them to yourself.)

“Second, be with people who aren’t afraid of your doubts.  Find a faith culture that allows for doubts and where leaders themselves are free to express their doubts.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be with people who are not afraid of questions?  They let you ask yours.  They share stories of doubts they’ve had.  When you’re in a period of uncertainty they carry you along until you regain your faith equilibrium.  They don’t get anxious.  They just love you the way Jesus loved Thomas.”  (My commentary:  He is talking about a safe place to discuss.  We need this so badly in the LDS Church.  I’ve reached a faith equilibrium.  But, it was a lonely and painful journey.  It shouldn’t be.)

“Third, a culture that allows questions can help you be aware of what God is doing with your doubts.  Jesus allowed Thomas time to “doubt his doubts” a bit.  Jesus knew what he was doing with Thomas.  He was allowing him time to think through what it was he believed.” (My commentary:  The only place to think through questions and doubts is…NOT in the church.  Rather, it can readily be found among the good and loving people who have already left.  This needs to change.)

Hopefully, something here will be of help.

All my best to you and your family,

Sam

 

A Mammoth & Moving Spiritual Experience

primary-program2

Last Sunday I visited my daughter’s ward.  The annual primary program was being presented at Sacrament Meeting.  Three of my precious grandchildren were on the program.

I literally WEPT the entire meeting.  A couple of times my emotions had to be reined in, as I verged on trembling.

Why the cry?  The ward has a huge primary.  60 children were at the front of the congregation.  They sung their songs.  Recited their lines.  Some squirmed.  Some monkeyed.  All were beautiful and cute.  But, my attention was soon diverted by haunting questions.

Tears for the Rainbow

Among these 60 innocent, lovely and dear children…….how many are gay?

Is it 3?  Is it 4?  Or is it more?

What do they face in the coming years in MY church, the church of the gentle Jesus?

What of their coming teenage years?  Will their self-esteem be destroyed?  Only to be recovered after years of pain?  To be reclaimed only after leaving the beloved church of their youth?

Will their family disown them?

Will their friends turn away?

In the past, my church has not been gay friendly.  Even less so this past year.

Oh, that I could know who the gay children were.  That they might be spared the fate of so many gay children who have gone before.  What problems, what pain, what agonies await?  Yes, I sobbed!

Then I heard the spirit of Jesus whisper, “Sam, keep that rainbow on your lapel.  It will touch my little ones.  Likely, they won’t remember you.  But, they won’t forget the image of the ribbon you wear.  When the time comes, they’ll take comfort that someone in MY church cares.”

Tears for Safety

I thought about their parents.

Which children have parents who are struggling in the lonely silence of questions and doubt?

These innocent children have no concept of the pain their questioning parents will suffer…alone.  The children feel safe at church.  How could they possibly comprehend that their parents could feel unsafe?

Which are the children whose parents will agonize and finally leave?  Making that choice without any consultation with their active member friends?

Which of these little ones will be gone in 6 months?  In a year?  In ten years?

If current trends continue, at least 60% will eventually depart.  60% will be gone?  Why, oh why?  These tender children of today, gone tomorrow.

Oh, that a safe place existed for their parents.  A safe place, before their parents made their fateful choice to pull out and pull out their children with them. Yes, I sobbed!

Then I heard the spirit of Jesus whisper, “Sam, keep pressing forward to make a safe place inside my church.  It’s MY church, Sam.  Soon there WILL BE a safe and loving spot for discussion & deliberation.  My apostles are now openly addressing this in public.  But, sometimes nudges from my sheep are necessary.  You are on the right track.  Please don’t stop working for it.”

This sacrament meeting, filled with the voices of innocent children, will be recorded as one of the most precious spiritual experiences of my 63 year journey through life.