Monday, December 9, 2013

An Independent Will.

I felt the need to write something today. Mostly because of an observation that disturbed me. I feel that it is not something that can, with a clear conscience, go un-addressed.

Part of my daily missionary work is to be online. I use this time to find quotes and pictures, scriptures, etc. to share and uplift where I can. I had the thought to find a quote from my favorite novel and relate it to the Gospel in some way. I typed "Jane Eyre Quotes" into Google and waited . . .

I read Jane Eyre for the first time in Eighth Grade, I confess to being a very hormonal, hopeless romantic little 14-year-old who read the proposal scene about 4,562 times in one sitting. I'm pretty sure I have it memorized.  I also have seen every adaption ever filmed and have a ranking list of my favorite Rochesters: Toby Stephens in the BBC Masterpiece Classics version is the forever standing #1. I consider myself an expert. But, my reasons for loving Jane Eyre have admittedly matured since I wore out my first copy of it. I'm still a hopeless romantic, but I can see past the timeless scenes and passionate declarations to the messages behind around and through them.

By now you have to be wondering what I'm getting at, why I'm writing this blog and if you're first time reader who is this broad and why does she have a picture of Jesus with her profile photo?

When I typed "Jane Eyre" into Google images, it came up with thousands of results, but I can't help but notice that one was more prominent than the others.

Go ahead, type it in, see for yourself. You'll see this quote on T shirts, book covers, purses, necklaces, bracelets, tattooed on people's backs in intense and dramatic script- everywhere! I have no issue with it, really. It's a good enough quote and it really does capture Jane in spirit. She is independent. She is completely and utterly free.

I think what bothers me is that it doesn't capture what MADE Jane free . . .

That quote is  . . . quotable. But it is not the moment that declared Jane's independence.

I want to describe Jane Eyre. According to the book, Jane is a "quiet, plain, obscure, little, reserved, even-tempered, rational, sane, ethereal, dark, pale, blah blah blah" young woman. She has a keen, but subdued sense of humor. A strong sense of justice, but an exercised capacity for forgiveness. She is slow to react and schooled in her expressions. In fact, I imagine many of my more forwardly feminist friends would call her "repressed". Unable to express her emotions and confined by the dictates of propriety.  . . I repeat, "blah blah blah."

But I don't think that Jane saw it that way. In fact the only moment that comes to mind is a moment most would see as a chance for freedom. Jane saw it as an imprisonment.

It's the moment that Edward Fairfax Rochester, the love of Jane's life, her other half, the demand of her soul, truly her EVERYTHING, is asking her to do something that is considered wrong. It is a violation of society, religion and morality and it is also against Jane's conscience. But is it something that Jane wants? Yes, actually. It is something that she wants desperately. But Jane knows that wanting it, does not mean that she would be happier with it.

Above is the only image I could find that quotes this moment. It is the moment that declares JANE as something independent, alright. Independent of her body, her passions, her carnal needs and nature. She is free and has the will to say, "No." Yet, not to the "confining dictates of propriety", but to herself.

Jane gives a speech much more passionate and strong than the crumpling, emotional little chirp,  that she is not a bird. This is her saying that she is a Woman of God. She knows that God's law is given to keep our souls free of guilt, pain and vice. She declares that breaching that law can only lead to pain and resentment. She says, no, and then frees herself from temptation. She leaves Mr. Rochester. It gives her pain to do do it, but not as much as staying would have. She leaves. She leaves, having faith that she will respect herself more and God will trust her more if she takes herself away and does not give into the "demands of her soul". She leaves and she is blessed for leaving. Not right away, not in the way she would want and not all at once. But those who have read the book or seen the film know that God was merciful and she had every blessing she needed by the last page.

The reason I'm writing this blog is because I think the meaning of Freedom has become lost in recklessness. The internet has focused on one moment in the story that seems to declare that Jane can do anything she wants. It's her independent will. She is not a caged bird. And she's not. But what inspires me about Jane is always what she doesn't do. Jane says that being free is using your will to do what is right, even if it isn't what your heart seems to want.

"I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free." Doctrine and Covenants 98:8

The laws of God are to protect us, but they only help us if we choose to follow them. We are not birds and no net ensnares us. We are free human beings and Children of God with independent wills. That we can exert to flee from what we know will hurt us.

"Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself." 2 Nephi 2:27

I am a Jane Eyre Fan. I am a Daughter of my Heavenly Father, both influences tell me that I am free.

Friday, November 29, 2013

"WE can do this."

Last night I realized I had a bad habit. I realized that when I pray for help I often open with the rather woebegone phrase "I can't do this." followed, of course, by a petition for help. I repeat that I know I can't do this and that He can. I ask for His help, His strength, His mercy. I lay in wait for the strength to come. I ponder my insignificance.

I wallow.

I am a wallower. I am one who wallows.My prayers go from petitions, to me, on the floor, WALLOWING.

The process was repeating itself, last night. I was in my closet (Christ said to, so I do it. Also, as a missionary there are only two places a girl can go for privacy and my companion was already in the bathroom.) praying for some assistance and, of course, WALLOWING. I found myself in the fetal position, repeating in my mind as a plea, "I can't do this." I found myself slipping into listlessness . . . I realized that this prayer really wasn't going where it should.

Why do we pray? To know God. To talk to Him, to thank Him and to ask His Forgiveness, Help, Healing, Advice. Prayer is meant to strengthen us, help, heal, inspire us. I was using it as a pity party.

I realized that the fault was mine. Was I asking for the wrong things? Was I not worthy of the help I needed? Why was this a time of sadness?

Meanwhile, I was still repeating, "I can't do this."

A thought came to mind: "Who wants you to believe that?"

"Satan?", I answered.

"So what does God want me to believe?"

Still on the floor, I squared my shoulders and tried something, "I can do this."

I felt myself shrink back from anything so bold, but I felt better enough to not want to go back to all the "I can'ts"

I can't take the credit for any success I have as a missionary. I know that ALL good things come from God. That's why prayer is essential. That's what brought me to my knees in the first place.But does that make me worthless? God never says that. Maybe it's a matter of teamwork?

"WE can do this." 

Then it came. Then the strength came. Then I was sitting up, standing up- Awake. The strength of Christ's Atonement filled me up and I was no longer wallowing. Much like Enos after his prayer, or "wrestle" before the Lord, I found myself asking, "How is it done?" I'm not going to claim a voice from the Heavens but I think the answer I got was about the same:

          "7 And I said: Lord, how is it done?
           8 And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ" (Enos 1:7-8)
A thought occurred to me that had never come before: The Atonement is just as much about your confidence as it is about your faith. I had Faith that God can do all things. I had faith that Christ's Atonement was real. I knew that if I put myself in His hands I could overcome all things. Nothing I hadn't been learning all my life and teaching for the past nine months of it. But I had been trying to apply it imperfectly (It's understandable- I am imperfect.) I had the faith- But I didn't have the confidence.

To me, everything I wanted to happen was impossible. Because of my weakness, my imperfections, my fears, my faults . . . And by the sheer grit of my prayers, Heavenly Father would listen and help me out.

         "12. Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself . . . "           (Alma 26:12)

It's been my favorite verse for so long, but I don't think I processed all of it . . .

         " . . . but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty     miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever."

Part of believing that God is there, is believing that He loves you. It's believing that you are His Daughter and are filled with the potential to be like Him- It's believing that if you put your trust in Him, YOU CAN DO ALL THINGS.

As many scriptures as there are saying that we are nothing compared to God, we are wholly at His mercy, We need Him every hour- There are just as many that say, "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward." (Hebrews 10:35), "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Phillipians 4:13),  "And Christ truly said unto our fathers: If ye have faith ye can do all things which are expedient unto me."(Moroni 10:23)

Faith is not just knowing that He's there, listening and ready to help you. It's knowing that if you try, with His help, you WILL SUCCEED. Pray for the help, but WORK for the miracle. And know that the miracle will come. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Monday, September 2, 2013

My First "Epistle"


I'm Sister Miranda Haws! I am a full time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This means that I have set aside  a year and a half of my time to serve and help others come closer to Jesus Christ. I'm not the first person to do this, nor will I be the last! But I am ONE of the first missionaries that has received authorization to spend some time per day, teaching and posting on the Internet! Which means that my life just got a bit more amazing!

I've decided to write a blog, mostly, because I enjoy writing and perhaps this would be a good chance to use that enjoyment to help edify others. Once again, not the first missionary who has done this! Actually one of my favorite missionaries of all time had a very effective blog that he shared with every person he came in contact with, even though he was technically alone in a prison cell. I am, of course talking about the Apostle Paul of the New Testament; and, yes, they weren't blogs they were "epistles": Letters sent out to different missionaries and regions that he had met to help strengthen them, even though he couldn't be with them in person. He encouraged everyone he wrote to share the letters with anyone they felt could benefit. It was mostly a forum for expounding on doctrine, giving warnings, sharing experience and voicing affection and inspiration.

 . . .

Okay, I don't care who you are! That is the very definition of a Blog! Just because it wasn't TECHNICALLY a "WebLog", it serves the same purpose. Paul was a Biblical Blogger. Deal with it.

I can't be with everyone on the internet. I can't even be with anyone at home, as I am called to serve in a specific area for the rest of my mission. But I still think about you. I still feel concern for those I love. I still want to share what I've learned with others. So think of this as "the First Epistle of Sister Haws to the People of the Internet." This is my Letter to every one who wants to listen. I'm proud to be like Paul for a while everyday.

I'd definitely say that Paul is one of my heroes. I respect anyone who can write with such eloquence and passion about what he believes, but mostly he's my hero because of this (read it fast):

Romans 7:13-21
13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

I give you, ladies and gentlemen, a Biblical Tongue Twister. Seriously. I love him.

But, in all seriousness, I love Paul. He is my hero, because I read him and I relate to him. I think we all can in a way . . . 

Okay, I know we are talking about Paul- Formerly known as Saul of Tarsus, persecutor of the Church of God and bringer of death unto the followers of Christ- who would become, one of the greatest missionaries of the old world, if not all time. How do we relate to that? Well, hear me out.

Saul was a devout follower of the Law of Moses, as it was followed before Christ came. He was taught by the great leaders and scribes of the day and when it came to persecuting Christians, he was all for it! His first appearance in the Bible is at the stoning of Stephen. He was holding everybody's coats while they gathered rocks. (Acts 7) He then began a crusade to destroy or imprison anyone who called on the Name of Jesus Christ. He was given approval to send out an order of arrest for all the Christian leaders and followers. Saul was on his way and in Acts 9, it says that his hatred and destruction had become so great that he was STOPPED. On the road to Damascus, he received a visitation from Jesus Christ Himself.

After all that Saul had done, and all that he intended to do, he was stopped by the very One who he was persecuting. What would become of him? What punishments were in store for this man? I say that he was stopped, but he wasn't destroyed . . . 

Saul was doing terrible things. They can easily be described as Evil. But, I don't think the Savior saw him as evil.

Imagine being taught all your life that the only way to serve God was to do certain things in a certain way. Any deviation was a sin, worthy of shunning. Whoever suggested another way was an enemy to God. You were given no higher thought than "Shun the Non-Believer!" (say it like the two unicorns in Charlie the Unicorn) and exalt the followers to the highest prestige. You've dedicated your life to this.

And then a new way is presented. It claims to be the truth from God himself. This shouldn't shake you up, but your leaders- the teachers, mentors and guides of your childhood- are reacting with violent anger. They seek to destroy the source of this dissension and they succeed. But the influence is still there. Despite the apparent death of "the corrupter", His followers are still alive and growing and spreading the word.

As a follower of your own leaders, you- with all the passion and zeal you possess support them with your own defense. You are happy and proud to defend your faith and your leaders are praising and promoting your efforts. You are moving forward and happy to do it and then  . . . You are stopped. 

Under miraculous circumstances, you are stopped in your journey by the very same "corrupter" you thought to be dead. In no uncertain terms, He tells you that your leaders are wrong, and your actions, so long thought to be admirable, are works of destruction AGAINST God. You were wrong. You've hurt many people and killed many more. Now what?

This is where Saul impresses me. He's humbled. His first response is simply asking what he should do next. (Acts 9:6). - He wasn't angry. He didn't panic or doubt. He didn't try to blame anyone else for his actions. he accepted the truth placed in front of him and ran with the new path placed in front of him, (Acts 9:20) and began to serve God in a new way, but with as much energy and zeal as he ever did as Saul.

Hearing it like this, could you do it? Could you hear a contradiction, even a condemnation, of everything you've known and just . . . go with it? No moment of self pity or angry desperation: Humble Obedience. Paul left Saul on that road to Damascus and went on to do great things, but I think that this moment is the clearest indicator of who Saul AND Paul were. Saul did evil, but who he was, truly, was a devout servant of God filled with passion and determination and faith. he was just using it wrong.

 I feel that's what Christ saw in him all along, someone with so much potential that was lost. So He stopped him. Much like he did to the Scribes and Pharisees a few years earlier with a simple sentence, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." (Matthew 5:17) Interpreted to mean, "I'm not here to destroy everything you know. I know what is good and great in it. I will magnify and expand on those great things and they will be for the good of all."

He did the same with Saul. Christ didn't meet Saul on the road to Damascus to destroy . . . but to fulfill. Just as the Law of Moses became the Higher Law of Christ, Saul of Tarsus became Paul: Missionary to the Gentiles.

That is what Christ has always done. When He created the world and man he used the materials given to create something greater, for our benefit and God's purpose. Now He takes us, when we lack direction, yet contain so much potential, and creates someone new- Someone that can do good and serve God. Every single being on earth contains that same potential. It is only a matter of meeting Him on the Road to Damascus and being willing to change directions. 

Like Paul, the Savior KNOWS us and has chosen us for a wise purpose. We are always capable of more than we know. We were created to do Good! Whether that good is Clothing the Naked, Feeding the Hungry, Visiting the Sick and Lonely or . . . writing a blog. Giving a hug. Knowing when to open your mouth and talk. We all have talents and potential, even if we feel like we haven't been living up to it.

Saul started out making a lot of mistakes. Worse mistakes than most of us will ever make. But when Christ came to him, He didn't tear him to pieces, He built Saul up to his true potential. Christ wants to build us up, not tear us down. When He stops us on the Road to Damascus, it's not to halt our journey, but to perpetuate our progression. I hope that I can always try to be like Saul AND Paul. Accept the correction and then go forward and do good.

That's my first epistle to you all. I hope there will be many more.

" I thank my God upon every remembrance of you," (Phillipians 1:3)

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen, 

Sister Haws