Sunday, February 5, 2012

tell what you know: don't sing, sang

(this clip is super tight.)

yesterday i heard an interview with ruthie foster about her recent collaboration with the blind boys of alabama.  she talked about how when you sing with the blind boys, "you don't sing, you sang."  she talked about her experience singing in the church and how it was her main event--it's your chance, she said, "to tell what you know."

(watch this whole long video.  it's such a beautiful embodiment of community, of walking together with each other & the spirit.)

today is my favorite church day of the month.  first sunday (or "sundee" as the elders around here pronounce it), fast sunday, testimony day, the day to tell what you know.  our church discourages clapping, singing, speaking in tongues, dancing, and all the fun stuff that some people get to do at their churches (i earnestly pray that this will change some day). so going where the spirit takes you is, well, it can't take you to far out of the bounds of an amen at the end of (never during) a sermon.

so fast sunday is the day to break out a little, to hear from those who might go a little too far out of bounds.  but it's their chance to tell what they know, and there's nothing i enjoy more than this in my worship services.  (i admit i like it best when someone is willing to say something "inappropriate."  maybe something that we all think, but we don't wanna say?)

today a brother told how he felt more confident when he sang between two congregants who are also professional musicians, how he suddenly became a better singer than he actually was.  a sister told the stories of the people she shared a surgical waiting room with as she waited for her own mother to emerge from surgery in taiwan.  a teen told how her volunteer work at the deaf school always made her day a better one, and three other teens testified that they felt god's love, and knew they were not alone with the scary feelings they were having about their futures.

these are the stories that my brothers and sisters don't tell me in every day life, so i love a day set aside for telling and hearing--for the reminder that, in a congregation, you're not alone.  someone is there to hear what you say.

& i am by nature a doubting person, a timid person, so testifying from the pulpit is not really something i can do.  but at least i can witness it.

and what i know today is that the telling and hearing of stories, the witnessing of each other's stories, is without a doubt, one of the best ways to observe your sabbath.  however, whenever, and with whomever you choose to do it.

if you feel inspired, tell what you know today.

inspiration:  telling and hearing, together

looking forward:  sunday dinner at bam's

tights:  boring charcoal, but i did see at church:  windowpane, horizontal striped, floral, tie-dyed, & white eyelet.


  1. The last few years of testimony meetings have been, unfortunately, predictable.

    I live in one of the most homogeneous, safe and "Mormon" places in the world. Provo Utah. Heck, I live in one of the most homogeneous, safe and "Mormon" parts of Provo.

    Each testimony meeting you can make an educated guess on who will bear the testimony. In general, a few of our older ward members and one specific BYU faculty member. Generally, all of the testimonies are well rehearsed and comfortable. I was recently called to a BYU bishopric. I love these young saints but this ward takes homogeneity to a whole new level. They're not only all the same race, but generally the same age and education level. Their universe is about a 6 block radius around campus. Testimony bearing is about how the Lord helped them with finals and they know their roommate is true. It's sweet, but for the majority (not all) it's still theory. I don't want to sound condescending, but most of them haven't had the scars of faith tare their soul yet. It will come.

    This week I went to church in Miami. I'm here for business and I looked for a meeting to attend during my trip. I don't know much about Miami and a selected the ward closest to my hotel. As I walked into the meeting I looked around and was amazed at the cornucopia of sprits I was surrounded by.
    The ward is an english speaking ward in a very hispanic neighborhood. In fact there are 2 spanish speaking wards that meet before and after their meeting. At the risk of sounding politically incorrect, this ward was made of the "working class". In other words, the people who speak english but live in a poorer hispanic neighborhood. There were a few white families, a large number of black members and many hispanic. The ages ranged all over the place and the number of accents I heard was fantastic.

    This testimony meeting was very different than my Provo bubble.

    I heard about visions.

    I heard about dreams.

    I heard about miracles.

    I heard about abuse.

    I heard about pain.

    2 of them where mentally disabled. They were beautiful.

    Then a small boy walked up. He looked to be 11-12 years old. He had long hair past his shoulders and was in a striped suit 2-3 sizes too large. I later found out that his uncle (a member of the ward) brought him to church every Sunday and that the ward was praying for his parents. I deduced they were dealing with addiction issues.

    He stood at the mic. He started to cry. A woman in the front row came up to hold him.
    "I know that God lives and he hears my prayers. I know this because when my parents leave me at home and don't come home at night and I'm scared I pray really really hard and I feel his love. I know that he helps them find their way home."

    That's all he said. That's all he needed to.
    There was more truth in that testimony meeting than I have heard in years. The sad part is how uncomfortable it made me.

    1. wow, corey. thanks for that story. i know what you mean on both counts, i think. & i desperately want to hear more truth being shared in my congregation. even when we are a more homogenous group than is ideal, i believe that our experiences are much more various than we ever let on because of the value we place on conformity and appropriateness. i don't know if this is approaching what you mean, but i would willingly feel uncomfortable in exchange for more honesty.

  2. Today I was the crazy testimony lady. Inspired by preparing to teach about the Liahona, which boggles my mind. Two spindles--one that points the direction in the wilderness and the other confirms, a redundant truing mechanism, operated on faith and belief. And sometimes words get written as well. WHAT? And it's beautiful. Curious workmanship. So much in my life right now is overlapping like those spindles, confirming, disconfirming, pointing new ways, urging me into the wilderness.

    Also, the CUTEST baby was blessed, with a giant full head of dark glossy hair and a huge white satin headband flower. Oh man.

    1. i wish i could have heard what you said, crazy testimony lady!

  3. Open mic is my favorite. I've been spending a lot of time with, and feeling very inspired by, the Quaker community since I moved out here and today as we sat in awkward silence praying for someone to get up I realized that maybe that awkward silence should have been treated as a chance for silent worship.

    1. that's what owen clark used to always say, ingrid. love it. wish i could hang out with quakers more.