Talk in Church

On July 30 2017, Reilly and I spoke in Church. I’ve decided to post my talk here for posterity.  And kicks. You’ll see that I spent the first third of the talk introducing us, since we are relatively new in our ward. I was pretty lighthearted and included some jokey inflections in my voice. Then I got a little more serious and decided to share more of myself, being just vague enough about my imperfections as well as admitting (vaguely) some of my struggles. If I spoke quickly enough, this talk would have been under 10 minutes, but I applied a nice cadence and switched up tempos throughout, so it ended up being closer to 15 minutes. Enjoy. Or not. 

Good morning. I am May Ryan. My handsome, smart, selfless, and sort of muscley and strong husband is Reilly Ryan. Reilly works at Diamond Fork Jr High in Spanish Fork, teaching 8th grade English. I work at a content and publishing company in Sugarhouse, maintaining a cancer diagnosis app. We’ve been married for five years and we have a 3yr old daughter named Z. We have been in the ward for 7.5 months, and we really love it here.

As more of an introduction, Reilly and I met in a Provo singles ward in August 2011. I was walking home from dinner at a friend’s house and happened upon ward prayer in my neighborhood cul-de-sac. I was new in the ward. Earlier that day at church someone had invited me over for a potluck, but I couldn’t remember where it was, and I wanted to check it out, even though I had just eaten.

While I’m not the most social person and I usually didn’t attend ward prayer, I needed to find out where this potluck was, but not because of the food. I was single, and because I was in a new ward, I had resolved to make myself try harder at getting to know people, even though large groups are intimidating.

I stepped into the crowd and asked a random person about the potluck. She said she didn’t know anything about it, but she pointed and said I could probably ask that bald guy over there. I didn’t see where she had pointed, so I approached the first bald guy I saw. That was Reilly.

We stood in the middle of that cul-de-sac, and I tuned everybody else out to focus on our conversation. I found out that we were both English majors. He graduated from the University of Utah, and I would be graduating that following April from BYU. We chatted about books and movies and music, and I was excited to talk with someone with whom I have so much in common.

Needless to say, Reilly Ryan thwarted my Sunday plans. During our chat, going to the potluck was the furthest thing from my mind. But it couldn’t have ended better.

We got married June 1, 2012. Our daughter Z was born in April 2014, when we were both in the middle of grad school. Our life together has been a marvelous journey so far.

Part of that journey includes speaking to you in church today. Time will tell if this experience ends up being marvelous or not. I’ll try to be optimistic.

In our remarks, Reilly and I will address the question, How will faith and obedience fortify me in today’s world? We will draw upon a talk by Elder L. Whitney Clayton from this past April’s General Conference called, “Whatsoever He Saith unto You, Do It.” This is a wonderful talk that has helped me focus my thoughts, and I pray that the Spirit will guide my words in their meaning and message.

Elder Clayton begins his talk with the story of the wedding at Cana in John chapter 2. Verses 1-11 read:

1 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:

2 And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.

3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.

4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.

6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.

7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.

8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.

9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,

10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

Elder Clayton points out that we recognize this story because it demonstrates Jesus’ power early on. It’s his first miracle. But as in most scripture stories, there can be multiple layers and lessons, and in this story, the lesson we focus on here regarding faith and obedience is in Mary’s instructions to the servants: “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.”

Mary’s confidence reminds us of who she is and how she came to give such straightforward direction. Mary is the mother of Jesus. As many parents with their children, Mary knows her son more than anyone. She knows his quirks, his tendencies. She knows that he is sinless, he is perfect. The Joseph Smith Translation of Matthew 25:3 states, “he spake not as other men, neither could he be taught; for he needed not that any man should teach him.”

When Mary says to the servants, “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it,” she’s saying she knows of the Savior’s divinity, his ability to save our souls. She’s saying that He is someone, the only one, we should have faith in.

How will faith and obedience fortify me in today’s world? The fourth Article of Faith says the first principle of the gospel is faith IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. Not just general faith. Faith in anything else will not sufficiently equip me to handle today’s seemingly numerous and relentless trials.

What is it about today’s world that makes life so difficult? What present challenges make faith and obedience especially crucial? We have many examples in the Bible and Book of Mormon of people struggling and exercising faith during those earlier dispensations. We have stories from early church history of saints facing different difficulties. We can gain inspiration from reading about all of these experiences. We can liken the principles taught to our lives. We know that we live in a unique time, and since the topic specifies today’s world, I have reflected on the years I have lived on the earth and some of the particular temptations that have tested my faith and obedience.

In the 80s, my dad introduced my mom to the church, and she was baptized when I was 6, and I got baptized when I was 8. I lived most of my childhood during the 80s in Florida, where I had a fascination with fire, and I remember taking books of matches from my house to the nearby playground and gathering kindling to start fires to watch them burn. These were always small fires that I extinguished pretty quickly, and this phase didn’t last very long. I’m not sure, but that was probably because I got caught and got in trouble. I conveniently don’t remember.

In the ’80s also emerged of MTV, which was really enticing with the adding of often spiritually toxic videos to already bad lyrics and a good beat and catchy melody. Media of all types had started to sneak their way into my mind.

The ’90s immersed my teenage and early adulthood years with increased intensity of what I was exposed to in the 80s. More tv, more music, more movies. Peer pressure invading my mind, I learned things I would have never seen or heard about in my home or from my family.

For the most part, I was a very faithful and obedient child and teenager. My parents and church family taught and supported me well. My friends were good and decent and wholesome people. I was a good student, graduating 2nd in my high school class, and I was accepted to BYU. I went to mutual. I went to early morning seminary. I earned my YW in Excellence Award. I kept going to church when my parents went inactive for a time.

It’s so weird to look back at the ‘80s and ‘90s and say these were simpler times, but the 2000s brought the seriousness of adulthood to my life. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in college, much less as a career, so I took a detour and moved with friends to New York City. I spent almost 7 years there. The entire world in all its aspects unfolded itself to me in that one place. The accumulation and amplification of every temptation I had been exposed to growing up and more was there. Furthermore in the 2000s was the full unleashing of the internet and the myriad potential ways it could derail someone like me from living the gospel.

There were bad influences in NYC, but I remember most fondly all the goodness it offered, too. I made some of my best friends there. The church is strong there. Members there struggle and fight, probably a lot like members everywhere do. There were times I wavered in my faith, but I always knew the gospel was true, and that my life had purpose. After trying to attend a singles ward for several months, I decided my time would be better served and I would feel more comfortable in a family ward. I served in the nursery. I served as a ward missionary. I also taught early morning seminary for two years. When I was there, serving others kept me on the right path.

And so we come to this decade. We could probably discuss and make a list of ways the world has changed in the last 7-10 years. Elder Clayton, in his talk, tells a story of speaking to a young bishop that spent several hours a week counseling members of his ward. He said, “The problems that members of his ward faced … were those faced by Church members everywhere—issues such as how to establish a happy marriage; struggles with balancing work, family, and Church duties; challenges with the Word of Wisdom, with employment, or with pornography; or trouble gaining peace about a Church policy or historical question they didn’t understand.”

This bishop often advised his ward members to “get back to simple practices of faith, such as studying the Book of Mormon, paying tithing, and serving in the Church with devotion.” He said, “Frequently, however, the members’ response to their bishop was one of skepticism: They said, ‘I don’t agree with you, Bishop. We all know those are good things to do. We talk about those things all the time in the Church. But I’m not sure you’re understanding me. What does doing any of those things have to do with the issues I’m facing?’”

That could have been me a number of times in the last 10 years talking to that bishop. I have questions and issues that I wrestle with. Most of the time they are about people I love and their relationship with the Church. My spirituality ebbs and flows, and when I am in the lower moments, it can be hard to know or remember what to do.

Elder Clayton says faith and obedience go hand in hand, that obedience is an act of faith. He says that those who obey in “seemingly little ways are blessed with faith and strength that go far beyond the actual acts of obedience themselves and, in fact, may seem totally unrelated to them. It may seem hard to draw a connection between the basic daily acts of obedience and solutions to the big, complicated problems we face. But they are related.”

Obedience is an act of faith in Christ, and the more we obey, the more we are blessed with faith. The more faith we have, the stronger we are to obey, even in the face of today’s barrage of mega-challenges. Christ can do that for us. He can fortify us. He can save us.

Reflecting upon the story of the wedding of Cana, perhaps the answer to the question, How will faith and obedience fortify me in today’s world? is another question: How do I come to know Christ the way Mary does? To answer that question, I wish I had something deeper than the little things, the “primary answers,” but it’s the little things that are truly profound and lead to growth. They set the foundation for progressing toward keeping higher covenants. Being diligent in my obedience as a child prepared me for many difficulties I faced growing up. Being faithful and obedient now motivate me to keep going to church, remind me to count my blessings, and reassure me the Lord knows my concerns and will provide the answers I need in his time.

“Whatsoever he saith, do it.” To apply that bishop’s counsel of studying the Book of Mormon, paying tithing, and serving in the Church with devotion is a lot like pouring water in those stone vessels, not really understanding how that will result in the best wine. That’s where I am right now. If I do these things, I don’t understand how that will resolve my personal struggles. But I do know that these acts of obedience are an exercise of faith in my Savior. These acts will enable me to know him better.

And I believe that the better I know Jesus Christ, the stronger my desire will be to obey his teachings. This is what I was taught as a child; and because we are uncertain and nervous about the world our daughter will grow up in, this is what Reilly and I will continue to teach our family. No matter our struggles, if we can establish little habits of faith, if we can fill the pots with water to the brim, the Lord will somehow touch our lives, perform a true miracle and fortify our souls, and bring out the best in us.

On Parenting and Villages

Today in Sunday School the little one was fussing a little, realizing she’d have to sit through yet another not-fun hour of church. I whispered to her that she was going to be okay, but she disagreed, as babies sometimes do.

Before she got too loud, a woman sitting behind me reached her arms out to Zinger and whispered, “Do you want to come to me?” I handed the baby to the woman, a new face with fun curly hair, big buttons on her collar, and a cool jangly bracelet. She’s been in the ward a long time and definitely one of the sisters I admire. I haven’t spoken to her very much in the past few years, but I’m glad she offered to hold the baby.

The woman played patty cake and chatted with Zinger while I got stuff ready for changing a diaper. I also took advantage of my free lap and a few quiet moments to actually pay attention to the Sunday School lesson. After a few minutes, I turned around and waited for Zinger to make eye contact with me. I asked her if she was ready, then I took her out to change her diaper.

Then Zinger and I roamed the halls for a while. Lately when she sees vast spaces to cross and long corridors to hike, she gets excited. When about 10 minutes were left in Sunday School, we returned to the classroom. I set her down on the floor with a toy and a book, but she wanted to keep walking. She headed toward another sister sitting two seats away. This woman picked her up and smiled and cooed at and nuzzled her. During the closing prayer, she made the baby laugh.

What a cool ward I live in.

A few months ago I read this blog post about assessing a situation and intervening when children are left unattended. The writer makes a good point about not judging the parents because we don’t always know everyone’s story, but if children are endangering themselves, then no one should watch and wait for them to get hurt.

I’m always worried about my child. My first attempt at parenthood is riddled with anxiety about being too cautious and not being helicoptery enough. Zinger began walking before she turned nine months old. In the past three weeks she’s progressed in her balance and speed. Part of that is not because I haven’t let her fall. Falling is a huge part of learning, but I or her father has been there when it happens. Falling is why she’s so strong. When she does fall, I talk to her about it. Sometimes she needs help standing up again, but more often than not, she can get up all by herself. I talk to her about that, too.

I try to talk to Zinger about many things. A lot of it is fun stuff, but some of it is serious, too. Kids are smart; kids are perceptive. I cannot assume that my child cannot pick up on what’s going on in the world around her. If there’s an opportunity to teach her about what she observes, I will take it. I will help her develop emotional intelligence. If anything, that will prepare me to discuss important lessons when she gets older. I have never imagined myself in a spontaneous, magical teaching moment like on cheesy family sitcoms. When Zinger asks me big questions, I want to be prepared to have a meaningful conversation with her.

She’s my first child. I’m surprised my blood pressure isn’t a lot higher with the anxiety I have. It’s hard for me not to imagine the worst-case scenario for every situation. After watching this video, someone asked if the bookshelves are secure:

I know the person meant well, but the question implies that we haven’t thought about the shelves. It implies that I haven’t imagined an earthquake and the shelves tipping, or the shelves even tipping by themselves. It implies that we leave the baby alone with the books. It implies that we don’t keep the bedroom door closed so that she doesn’t wander in and pull a pile of books on top of her.

It implies that we are negligent parents. I felt judged, and that really hurts my feelings.

I understand that it takes a village to raise a child, and I’m grateful for the village that has come together — inside and outside family — for Zinger’s sake. I just wonder what more I have to do be respected as a parent.

Not A Big Deal

dictionary.com:

font

–noun

1. a receptacle, usually of stone, as in a baptistery or church, containing the water used in baptism.
2. a receptacle for holy water; stoup.
3. a productive source: The book is a font of useful tips for travelers.
—–

font1(font)

noun

  • 1 a receptacle in a church for the water used in baptism, typically a freestanding stone structure.
  •  another term for stoup
  • a reservoir for oil in an oil lamp.
  • 2 a fount:they dip down into the font of wisdom

Derivatives

fontal

Pronunciation:/ˈfäntl/

adjective

Origin:

late Old English: from Latin fons, font- ‘spring, fountain’, occurring in the ecclesiastical Latin phrase fons or fontes baptismi ‘baptismal water(s)’

—–

1font

noun \ˈfänt\

Definition:
1a : a receptacle for baptismal water b : a receptacle for holy water c : a receptacle for various liquids
2: source, fountain <a font of information>
font·al adjective
Origin:
Middle English, from Old English, from Late Latin font-, fons,from Latin, fountain

First Known Use: before 12th century
—–
However, the Mormon Tabernacle Choirs sings “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

So, I understand what the guy was saying. And the message itself was powerful, because he used the story of the woman at the well and related that Christ told her if she partook of the water then life would spring forth from her, that she, too would be a source of life, because she drank of the living water of Christ. She, too, could become a font. Or fount.

Are they different to you?

It was just a little weird that he approached the talk by focusing on the differences between font and fount, instead of considering that they could actually be variants of the same word. And then implying that those who sing “Come thou font” are singing it wrong.

When I sing it that way, I always think of a fountain, a wellspring, an eternal source.

When I sing it the other way, my thoughts do not change.

*****
I co-taught a lesson today for the Relief Society and Priesthood combined meeting.
I was sort of a sweaty mess.
Hardly anything original came out of my mouth.
But I asked questions.
And people commented. Lots of people. They discussed.
Totally my kind of class.
They were incredible.
And I kept asking questions to guide the discussion and people kept commenting until it was the other teacher’s turn.
And he did a marvelous job. Really, he’s fantastic.
That class strengthened my faith in a lot of things.
And then people came up to me after class were very nice.
And I did what I always do:
“Thanks. And so what are you doing at your benefit concert next week?”
“Thanks. Your comments were really great.”
“Thanks. I was really impressed with the class discussion.”

I often forget that I’m hard-wired for this kind of thing. But then somewhere along the way of each teaching moment you remember that it’s not about you, and it becomes clearer than anything that the class is learning something, and you really feel you can’t take credit for teaching anything at all.

And that’s when the blessings really spring forth.

Sometimes I Keep Comments to Myself in Church, Which I Tell People Privately, Which I Then Broadcast on a Public Blog

From a past Sunday:

Dear [Person],

Just wanted to let you know I really appreciated your lesson today. The gifts of the Spirit or so important and truly testify to God’s knowing exactly what we need to grow as individuals and help build His kingdom.

I was thinking during class about your gift of believing other people’s testimonies. It’s a crucial gift, because what good are testimonies that have been born without those who can hear them and believe them? It seems those who have this gift have an inherent ability to sustain and strengthen those especially who have been called to testify of Christ. It seems that those with your gift can sustain with even greater conviction our church leaders. Not everyone can give support with that kind of power. The kingdom cannot thrive without your belief; it seems to complete the formula of faith required in general to receive and exercise all the gifts of the Spirit. And, it shows how the Lord blesses us with each other, and that we really do need one another for strength and encouragement. It’s super cool. Therefore, you’re super cool.

That’s all.

Have a great week.

I think about the gifts of the Spirit (Moroni 10, D&C 46, 1 Corinthians 12, and those are just the ones listed) all the time. I like to see people use theirs. I’m always trying to cultivate an awareness of what mine are or what I can receive and develop. And it’s always in the context of being able to help others. And yet, it’s always about potential and faithfulness that these gifts can rest upon me. I know I have the potential to be a good teacher; I can tell when I’m in a physically or spiritually dangerous place; I have an exceptional ability to listen, to internalize and empathize. So when I hear people explain why they don’t understand something about themselves, I can usually offer a different perspective, or at the very least, a competent ear and an open heart. When I’m good at this, I’m really good at this. I’m not boasting, but merely stating an observation, which, incidentally, is very humbling.

Wreck Calm Men Days Shun

I’m trying to remember. When I applied for BYU, my seminary teacher needed to fill out a form regarding my performance and attendance in class. She also had to write a few comments that would hopefully help the admissions board accept bright, shiny me to their bright, shiny school. Did she mail that part of the form to the school herself, or did she give it to me to send with the rest of the application?

BYU has several teeming campuses these days: BYU-Provo (29,000 students), where I attended; BYU-Idaho (11,600 students), which used to be Ricks College, in Rexburg, Idaho; BYU-Hawaii (2,400 students), from what I hear, is one of the most beautiful, paradisiacal campuses in the universe; and LDS Business college (1,300 students), in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Provo campus assumes it’s the superior campus, coming up from BYU Academy, way back when Karl Maeser was running the place and the adulation for Brigham Young was probably at its highest. He did lead the saints away from persecution, through the plains and treacherous weather and around the Rockies to Utah. It is a pretty big deal, and I can understand the value of one’s heritage.

BYU is a good school. It’s a private school. It’s the best education you can get as an undergrad for the cost. It’s a sterile school; it’s a wholesome school; it has rocked as the most “stone-cold sober” school for the past how many years? 10? At least. My freshmen classes were huge – the weeder courses: American Heritage, Biology 100 – both had around 1,000 students, and that was just for my registered time slots. And the classes were split into numerous sections, where we’d meet as a group of 30 or so and get somewhat more individual attention from the TAs.

I would assume, since they are considerably smaller, the other campuses might be a bit less intimidating. Some people appreciate going to a church school, having thousands of others who share the same beliefs surround them, where everyone helps everyone else feel more secure. People often call BYU “Happy Valley” or “The Bubble” for this reason. It doesn’t represent at all what the real world is like. There are no legitimate disagreements, just the opportunity to concentrate on school and church and social life (or the severe lack thereof).

Maybe no college is like the real world. College is this 4- (or 5-, or 6-, or 7- …) year chunk of life away from reality. Supposedly you acquire and refine skills for a career. It’s a pivotal and often integral part of one’s future. Whether one gets into a school could make a big difference, and then which school is also a key factor. 

So, as a high school student, somehow getting into college becomes critical to life, and there’s all this pressure and you take all sorts of hard classes and get very little sleep for all the homework and exams, then there’s extracurriculars, such as band and honor society and community service.

And then, applications require a few words of recommendation from school teachers, and sometimes from seminary teachers – if you’re applying to a church school. My seminary teacher did it for me, and she probably had some nice things to say. And now that I’m a seminary teacher, a student has requested for me to fill out that part of the application. It instantly made me nervous, because I wanted to do a good job, and while I knew that this student’s admission wasn’t riding entirely on my recommendation, I wanted to help as much as I could. So, I worked on it, and I’ll be handing that page of the application to my student Monday morning.

“Whenever I begin my early-morning seminary class with an object lesson or a hypothetical situation, [student] figures out the core message withing the first few minutes of the discussion. [S/He] has a complex, curious and keen mind. [S/He] craves and constantly seeks truth. And, [S/He] shares it. [Her/His] insights are articulate and often profound. What sustains [her/his] intelligence, though, is the Spirit that seems to attend [her/him] continually. [Student] is a diligent, righteous child of God. [S/He] is an absolute joy to teach. [Her/His] testimony is strong and steadfast, and [s/he] is also a quiet leader … [S/He] exudes humility and integrity, and with [her/his] generous heart, [s/he] extends friendship and compassion to everyone. In the few months and calm mornings I have known [her/him] so far, these qualities became immediately apparent. Imagine how [her/his] potential will unfold throughout [her/his] college career! [Student]’s life and dreams have blessed me and everyone who knows [her/him]. I am grateful for [her/his] example, and I know [a BYU school] will benefit immensely from [her/his] invaluable talents and pursuit of truth.”

The words fit in the small space on the page, in Arial Narrow, 10-point type, which is still bigger than the print on the application. Overkill? Maybe. But this student totally blows my mind and touches my heart and I want this student to do the same for everyone else. Because that is what the world needs.

Good luck, student. Dazzle them the way you do.

The attachment that went with the letter

New Testament Scripture Mastery Couplets – Rapping strongly discouraged.

1. To be a light of the world you should always strive, to shine before men just like in Matthew 5.

2. Whom will you serve? You have just one pick. Will it be God or mammon, asks Matthew 6.

3. Thou art the Christ, Peter says, his eyes keen, and gets the kingdom’s keys in Matthew 16.

4. “And the King” is how Matthew 25:40 begins, “Ye have done it unto me” is how the verse ends.

5. The apostles were startled, when the risen Jesus appeared, In Luke 24, he explains it’s not weird.

6. Be born of water, Jesus said in John 3, and of the spirit to progress in glory.

7. Do God’s will and know doctrine, get closer to heaven. This is what Christ taught in John chapter 7.

8. Baa, baa! Where have the other sheep been? Christ will go find them like it says in John 10.

9. It takes more energy to write a couplet than to say, “John 14:15, If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

10. Know the only true God and what he came to be, Christ fervently prays in John 17:3.

11. Stephen, an apostle, was stoned and saw heaven, God and Jesus separately as a part of Acts 7.

12. Being not ashamed of the gospel is not always fun, Can you declare the truth like Paul in Romans 1?

13. Temptation will meet us again and again, But we can escape says 1 Corinthians 10.

14. Christ overcame death, for me and for you, to save ALL, says 1 Corinthians 15:20-22.

15. In the spirit world, there’s still a long line, for baptism taught in 1 Corinthians 15:29.

16. Telestial, terrestrial, celestial, it’s true- three glories in 1 Corinthians 15:40-42.

17. The Church is organized as in days of yore, for perfecting the saints, says Ephesians 4.

18. The apostasy is the Dark Ages to you and me. It was foretold in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3.

19. The world gets more wicked while we’re still alive. Be alert, warns 2 Timothy 3:1-5.

20. The scriptures inspire, fill in between, what’s not always clear, counsels 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

21. If you lack any wisdom, it’s not that you’re dumb; just ask God for help, like it says in James 1.

22. Don’t do and believe and don’t believe and do. Faith without works is dead, says James 2.

23. As unto Aaron, God’s priesthood is conferred. In Hebrews 5, Paul gives you his word.

24. Angel Moroni restores the gospel foreseen. And more angels minister in Revelation 14.

25. Books of life will help judge the dead; If you know Revelation 20, you will come out ahead.

Psyched

Yesterday after work, I started cold-calling students from my list of potentials for seminary. I talked to a few parents. Some students I don’t know at all answered the phone and I invited them out to seminary. 6:45. IN THE MORNING. Before regular school starts. Some students will be commuting from Brooklyn because they attend high school in Manhattan. I talked logistics with some students about having to leave class early because everyone’s high school seems to start at a different time.

Talking to people I don’t know sometimes makes me nervous. Talking to people about something they might not necessarily be enthusiastic about makes me a little more nervous. Get up early to huh? Excuse me? Of course, I never got those responses. Everyone knows what early-morning seminary is. Still, it’s kind of insane. Parents are usually pretty encouraging, and they support me when I call the students. Church leaders definitely back me up, and that feels pretty good.

Still, though. Strangers. And very smart, young strangers. It’s a bit daunting.

I got to someone I actually know on my list. This student’s family and I are pretty good friends; we go back almost four years. I dialed their number, and their voicemail picked up. I said hi, how are you? This is May, and this message is actually for [student]. Then Student picked up the phone. She said hi. Then I said I’m actually calling to tell you about seminary. She asked are you teaching seminary? And I said yes. And she asked where are you teaching, and I said the Lincoln Center Building. And she said REALLY? And I said yes. And she said NO WAY, ARE YOU SERIOUS? And I laughed and said yes. And she said, THAT’S SO AWESOME. FIRST YOU WERE UPTOWN THEN YOU WERE DOWNTOWN AND NOW THEY HAVE YOU TEACHING WHERE I’M GOING TO GO. I’M SO EXCITED! And I said so am I. We’re studying the New Testament this year, and it’s going to be awesome. We’re going to have a lot of fun. Then she said YAY! Then she handed the phone to the mom and we proceeded to plan when I’d be able to visit for dinner.

That student? I have to thank. She made my day and made me oh-so-stoked about teaching again this year. I LOVE the New Testament; I love studying the man, the deity around whom the gospel centers. It really is going to be a wonderful year.

And I’m glad I have a dinner appointment with these good friends. It’s been a while since I’ve seen them. Um, I haven’t seen them since … the Super Bowl?

Now, if only Tim and Susan would call…