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Utah Promulgation: Oh, The Places I’ve Lived

SLC Map Places I livedOf course, no trip to Utah with friends, would be complete if we didn’t visit the places I have lived. The geography of a place has much influence on the development of who you are, and the places I lived in the valley had more, sometimes, than friends or family. In the 40 years that I lived there, I called home in 12, possibly 13 places. I wouldn’t make them go to all, but there is some neat aspects of the area in all.  (And this is a chance for me to recall all those locales.) Here is a very brief summary of them all.

  1. I was born in a home I didn’t live long. I have seen pictures of myself, wrapped all up and sleeping, with my older brother and sister peeking over the edge of the cradle, that I am told, was in this house. When I was born, this home was the 3rd house in from 1300 East, but with its expansion, now it is on the corner. After several moves, our family will have come full circle back to the same street, but on the other side of 1300 East. No need to visit.
  2. I only lived in the second home until I was 8 years old. There are vague memories of a man who astounded me by knowing my name, friends on the corner, and playing in the dirt of a home that had the first waterbed I knew about. I had a best friend named Steve Shoop that I learned went to Brighton later on, a big hill we would ride our skateboards and bikes down, and a strange recollection of a bridge over a swimming hole. No urgent need to see.
  3. This location, this locale, was the place that I called home from 8 until 21 years old. It was the longest place that I lived. Near the base of Big Cottonwood Canyon and smaller Ferguson Canyon, this helped in my love for hiking and nature in general. The only thing I found hard was the fact that any grand bike ride ended up going home uphill, but it never stopped me from going. We had no one living behind us except the dead, and it was a grand rambler with an unfinished basement save for the single bedroom my dad actually finished. My brother and I had a framed out room, but that was as far as it got since my dad detached himself from the family. I made a few great, enduring friendships up there on the east bench. There was so much to explore; unfinished Ferguson_Canyon_(2)fields, new mansions framed out to walk through, canyons, neighborhoods, cemeteries. This formed my youth and young adulthood. There were hard times, there were great times, and I could always escape to the mountains. I miss them…  [3b. is a brief excursion to Logan, Utah from Autumn ’87 to Spring of ’88. Not long but important period in my history. We obviously wouldn’t visit this due to distance, but it would be fun if only to get ice-cream from the Aggie Dairy.] We would need to visit this house to see the updated trailhead entry for Ferguson Canyon, and also if we went up Big Cottonwood. Must see!
  4. This location is my family’s first apartment experience. It was my Mom and younger sister. I worked retail and stuck with my Mom because I believed she needed me. We had a dog at the time named Tasha, whom we had to give up to other family, (until we moved to #5) because of some stupid decisions on my part. It was a depressing time for all of us, but thankfully, I don’t think it lasted more than a year or so. No need to visit.
  5. Back to Sugarhouse, and the same street I was born. An old home with lots of problems, but a great place to escape after the horrible apartment experience. We got our dog back, I got a couple of new jobs, met my wife while living here and finally moved out, apart from my Mom in 1994. No need to visit unless we’re in the area… which may be possible due to the proximity to Sugarhouse Park.
  6. A bit of a dirty, scary, newly married couple’s apartment. We weren’t there for too long, thankfully, lots of weird goings-on happening there. They had a pool there we wouldn’t go near. No visit, no future thought.
  7. This was another apartment, that apparently was called a condominium. There was a drunk-old man who lived above us who always seemed to be falling down. It was very small, but the owner was a very nice guy who lived in Park City and always responded promptly when we had a problem. Once the drunk guy left his car door open and the keys in it, making the “bing-bing” sound. I took them out and took them up to him. He hardly looked at me, took the keys and closed the door. We lived close to an Italian restaurant that was pretty good, the most famous frozen custard in town, a great little hole-in-the-wall Chinese place, and the house I lived in until I was eight. We did a lot of walking here, and discovered that we were expecting our first baby.
  8. Three days after our first child was born we moved. My aunt and uncle had offered for us to live in the little cottage that was behind their house. They lived in the Avenues: a very eclectic part of Salt Lake City. I loved to walk in this neighborhood, and I especially liked walking our new daughter, who never slept. We’d go to the fountains at LDS hospital, the library up on 9th, all the way up to 13th and down to the cemetery I wrote about a few posts ago, and even occasionally downtown SLC. It was the only time we lived in the actual city of Salt Lake City. We loved it.
  9. To save our aunt and uncle some money, they offered us to move upstairs of their home, while they rented the back cottage out to someone willing to pay more. The upstairs had air conditioning and our own little small kitchen. Our growing daughter loved looking down the high windows and we were good with living above family, but it was a bit uncomfortable, if you know what I mean. Other significant events that occurred while we lived up there was the biggest tornado hit the city on August 11, 1999, and two planes crashed into World Trade Centers. The tornado went only a few blocks away while I was at work and my wife and daughter were napping while my Mom frantically called trying to find out if they were okay. Our aunt and uncle came up during dinner one night to tell us they were selling the house. It sold in three weeks. We might visit this place simply for the reason that there is so much to see in the area.
  10. Apartment time again… We had to give up my wife’s favorite cat and were still sore from our relations selling the home. It was an okay apartment, and we had our second child there. The people below us constantly complained while we tried to live with the noisy people above us. There was a swimming pool that was clean and it seemed like we were the only one who used it. We walked a lot here too. There was a mall and shopping district nearby, a park with the only frisbee golf course in town, and the Catholic elementary school I went to as a child. We’ll probably drive by it, due to the locality near a transitory street.
  11. Our first home! It was what they called a twin home, although I don’t know the difference between a duplex and a twin home still is, and that these twin homes looked not always like the one on the other side. It was a compact busy neighborhood. At one point two loud guys lived next door who played their music late at night, right next to the girls’ room. Our third daughter was born here. It was close to a Home Depot and a Smith’s Marketplace, as well as many different movie theaters. Walking was hard because there was so many busy streets around. Here is where I walked to the bus stop and then the train station for work. It was a good little home, but not necessarily one I would show friends around. I would like to see what they did to a yard.
  12. Our second home and our last in Utah. This one never really felt like home. I now realize that perhaps God was preparing me for a move, in how I felt. It was a very big home that stood all on its own. We could walk to the Salt Lake Community College campus and play and walk our dog. I didn’t really like the neighborhood at all. It was noisy and… something just wasn’t quite right about it. Again, I am interested in what they did with the yard, and really what they did in the house. We were only the second owner of a house that was built in the early ’70s, and I don’t think they did any upgrades since then, and we really couldn’t afford to do anything with it. We had my wife’s Mom and her new husband live with us for a while after they moved from Pennsylvania, only to be estranged with them not much later. Very odd point in our lives. We were close to my wife’s cousin which was about the only bonus I could find. No visit.

And then there was West Plains.

~Mayo

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Utah Promulgation: Mount Calvary Cemetery

A year and a half ago I wrote this post, and this one subsequently ending “Stranger In Rebellion” (until last December when I rebooted it). They were about an opportunity we had in Denver and all the fallout that came therein. Recently, I have been troubled by having many dreams about living in Utah; moving people I knew there, living in houses I have a history with, planning meetings with people, walking or driving the streets. It seemed a constant barrage and I began to wonder if I was being told something.

The same group of discipleship friends, the ones who told me they’d do everything to make me stay if they believed God was telling them it was wrong, gathered last Sunday night – and there was a similarity of conversation. I told one of my dreams and hope of interpretation. He told me that biblical interpretation of dreams was done by a person of God to someone who did not know God, so perhaps I should know my own. Another thing he said was that God seems to communicate to me in the going. In the possible move to Denver, I had to go there in order to feel God stopping me. Maybe this will be the same?

I had suggested in the past that I would like to take an all day/night drive to Utah with these friends, and, show them around a bit. The places I lived, went to school, restaurants I enjoyed, people I knew, are all a part of who I am that not one of them will ever know or understand. Who am I but where I came from? And now, just last week, my friend confirmed that perhaps we ought to do that, and have a good conversation on the way back about what God may be telling me. I delighted in the idea and began thinking of places to go. And then I had a great idea… Write about the places I would go. I like writing and I really like writing about my history, so why not begin a series about the places I’d take my friends. Most of these probably won’t be places we’d actually have time for, but it is more of a record, for good and bad.

I am writing this on “Former Stranger In Rebellion” instead of “Undeniably Mayo” because it seems right. This is where it all started, and this is where it may ultimately finish.

Mount Calvary Cemetery

The first place I’d like to write about is about the end. The place where all come to rest: a cemetery. You’re told to be quiet in church, quiet in school, quiet in the library. But a cemetery is a strange place. We need to be respectful. We need to be reverent. We need to be quiet. My Grandpa’s grave was located near the eastern most point of the entirety that is the Salt Lake Cemetery and more specifically, Mount Calvary Catholic Cemetery. As a child, my family would visit his plot every Memorial Day, washing the bird poop off the tombstone with small tupperware containers filled at the little nearby shed. We’d walk up and down the hill in the hot sun getting enough water in the bowl and walk carefully back up trying not to spill too much so as to limit our excursions. As we stood around, waiting for my our_historyparents to feel whatever they were supposed to feel, I got a wondrous tickle deep down in my tummy. I wanted to run. What a perfect place to practice the dodge and weave, through the tombstones over the little trees, up the hill and back down. But that was all forbidden here. We were to be reverent. We were to be quiet. “Don’t step on the graves,” we were told. “Don’t lean on the tombstones,” we were reminded. We knew how to act, it was just hard to in such a beautiful environment.

Later, we’d walk up to the trees that lined the many roads within, to look at the graves of… my possible sister and brother, or my dad’s sister and brother? I never really quite understood, nor did I try to clarify, and it seemed mythical to me that I might have had two older siblings, or, that I might never existed. There were four of us kids and I was the third. If my parents were shooting for four, and the first two survived, would I exist at all? Those trees along that road held great reverence and quiet for me. The small inlaid stones were shabby and broken up, barely any writing on them at all. The memorial within the Mount Calvary Cemetery for those who were killed by abortion is larger and more intricate than all those little stones that marked the memory of those children who died very young. These small little tombs made me quietly sad, and yet filled me with a philosophy about who I was, and that I existed and they didn’t. What kind of God did we claim to know that left me alive and allow those others to perish? And why was there some sort of life there where we had to not walk upon them? Would they feel pain in the afterlife if we trod on their grave or shifted the stone? Sure, it is all respect for the living in that all this is done, but as a child we wonder why, and the smaller ones always held such sway over me.

I never knew my Grandpa, but buried there now is my Uncle Mike, his parents who are my Nana and Papa, subjects in many of my dreams. My dad is buried there too. They are all in and around the same modern mausoleum. Families divided in life by divorce, now united in death. These people define me. The place they now rest defines me. Here is where we shared tears when my Papa succumbed to old age, and too long after, my Nana. All the people who gathered at their home many a Sunday, now so geographically and emotionally and spiritually divided, coming together to mourn the loss of why we came to be. We will soon be gathered there, united in death. For death defines and succumbs to us all.

And yet, with the life I now live for eternity, do I go back and share this life, live it in such a way that they must see Christ in me? Or do I stay here? It seems that in the going I must find out.

~Mayo

Sunday Scrutinization: Utah is a Far Away and Dark Land

This morning my eldest daughter and I made our way to a congregation we weren’t familiar with to listen to and hopefully meet a guy who was on his way to the deepest, darkest jungles of SouthCentralWestern United States, known as Salt Lake City. A friend from our current fellowship brought me into the know that such a one as this was speaking there, and since he knew I was intimately familiar with the locale, he correctly assumed the level of my interest.

In trying to find out more about this other church, I felt a pang of regret in not taking advantage of this summer’s foray into night services by visiting other fellowships and witnessing God’s hand in the goings and comings therein. And in that, I remembered a discussion with a couple the other night about “cherry-picking” your favorite stuff among the churches you live nearby. Our friends are ones that have come to the current fellowship we are a part of, as well as being members of the previous large group we were attending. They are still participating in ministries there as well as being a part of the new, and have even participated in other congregations activities when there was an opportunity and God was leading them there. *Gasp!* There was accusation that they are “cherry-picking” the favorite things to be a part of wherever that may be. They were told that if you have chosen your church, then you must minister within the programs offered by that church. They obviously, respectfully disagreed. We are a part of the Church of West Plains, and we want to be where God is, no matter the congregation, fellowship, or denomination. That being said, we really want to have that kind of vision, and hope that others see things in the same way. In passing out flyers this summer, inviting people as a community to the fellowship meeting we have been doing, one of these things that stuck out in my mind was people not accepting the flyer stating that they already went to church.

Ouch.

How can we envision His Church in this way? You have yours, and I have mine, and may the two never meet. So I was glad to sit in on a service that baptized a baby (*Gasp!*) and meet a man who has such a heart for the lost. People said they were glad I was there. And you know what? I was glad to be there too, even when they don’t believe everything I do. The heart of Christ was central to our gathering, to the reasons we were all there, that morning.

As you all know, I grew up Catholic in Salt Lake City and became an evangelical Christian in my early to mid-twenties. The people I knew there were all Christians. We were part of an Awana group that came from all over the valley. We had Bible studies, fellowship dinners, retreats, all with other believers. The non-believers I knew of were my family and my coworkers (about 4 guys). I grew up there, knew the town, the places and surroundings. It is a bright and beautiful place for me. So when I heard the introductions for this man and what he spoke about, they made Salt Lake City or Utah in general sound like this faraway foreign land where people have dark hearts and lead dark lives.

How could they speak of my hometown in such a way? Then he gave some statistics: only 2% of Salt Lake is Christian. Given that just a few years ago Salt Lake hit the one million population mark, that means that there are only about 20,000 people there are Christian. Hmmm… that sounds like a lot to me. So then there are at least 800,000 people who are not. Wow. Okay, I’m getting a little of the picture here. He said he was going to be in Lehi, which is just North of Provo, home of BYU, and that Provo only had about 24 churches. That sounds like a lot. I did some searching for how many churches might be in the Salt Lake Valley, but couldn’t find any exact numbers, but I would guess from around 150-200 churches, and again, that sounds like a lot to me. But then I did a search for how many churches are in the West Plains area, where I live now, and see that online I come up with about 50, some people have told me 75. If we take the entire population of Howell County, in which West Plains is the county seat, of 40,000 then number of churches in West Plains alone is 1 per 530 people, but just taking West Plains population it is 1 church for every 160 people! An incredible number. If my guess is right about Salt Lake, then they have 1 church for every 5,000 people, or about 1 church for every 100 Christians.

Looking up the estimates of Christians in China, they have about 3% of the population. It’s no wonder there is a trend to send Church planters there to my little hometown of Salt Lake. It makes me wonder why I left… oh yeah, it’s because I was so comfortable there. I needed to get out and get challenged, to grow and to trust in God way more than I ever could in Salt Lake. Those people who are being sent to Salt Lake to plant churches better be prepared to be uncomfortable. I admire them and hope that I can be a support to them, which I am trying to do now. There is an expertise I have when it comes to going to Salt Lake and I hope people might rely on me in little ways in that, and I hope those that I know there can support them as well. There is a great work of God happening there, what with Ravi Zacharias speaking for a second time in the Mormon tabernacle and the nations evangelicals turning their eyes to the lost, I pray for them and hope you will too. And if you are a friend in Utah and would like to be connected to these folks, don’t hesitate to let me know. We could all use some small bits of support.

Oh, and if I may interject the best resource here for witnessing to Mormons, it is this book. You can find it at the best resources for Christians in Utah: Utah Lighthouse Ministry. There is a right way, and a wrong way to witness to Mormons.

According to a Mormon, Contention is from the devil. Why would they listen to you with signs like this?

Don’t be these people.

Build a relationship first.

~Stranger

Strange Confessions: Four Years Away from “Home”

Strange Confessions: When we left Utah, we told people we’d never come back. I regret ever saying that. Totally.

Our family has had the wonderful privilege of hosting our niece over her Thanksgiving break from college. She is going back to Mississippi tomorrow. I just put my youngest daughter to bed and she started to act like she usually does when we’ve had guests and they are about to leave. She gets very emotional, tells me she is sad about them leaving, but usually doesn’t cry until just after they leave. Then the next few days I expect one or another of my daughters to just start crying and say how they miss Utah, our family there, the friends we had. It makes me sad. Makes me regret ever coming here. I don’t want to put my family through this kind of regular heart-ache.

We have some truly wonderful friends living in Kansas City. We have been friends with them for about 19 years. They moved from Salt Lake City about 13 years ago. Lived in the San Francisco area for a while, then moved to KC. Being friends with them after such a long time of geographical challenges is a real testimony of their loyalty and patience with our family. We see them at least three times a year now, and I love every minute they are here or we are up there. We are travelling to KC soon, and the one thing I don’t look forward to is leaving. Having to deal with the kids’ state of mind, and even my own is very sad. I counsel the children that this is not the end of seeing them, it’ll happen again, we had fun here now, why ruin it with sad feelings? I’m really talking to myself. This happens when anyone who stays for more than a night comes for a visit. They especially miss my mom, as I do.

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This Thanksgiving marks four years since we moved from Salt Lake City to West Plains. In a lot of ways it has gotten easier. We knew this wasn’t going to be easy. We knew that God wanted us to get out of our comfort zones and look to new challenges of trust and empathy. I accept His sovereign will in my/our lives in this matter. Our cousin posted this picture you see on that one site, and it has been very helpful in the last few days. All the things on this list are true. I usually dwell on the things I don’t have, which is, I believe not the way God would want me to look at things. There is one thing I would add: “I really miss my family who is miles away, because that means that I have family who still live in this country.” I have a friend, I’ve told you about him before, who has no family. Well, that is not entirely true, but his parents and only other sibling are gone. He does have an ex-wife and stepdaughter. I don’t know him intimately, we were friends only for a summer back in high school, but when I wrote him on that one site, we talked quite a bit and still maintain some contact, at least I haven’t driven him away for good… yet. In my lame little way I contacted him over Thanksgiving to see how he was doing. I know it can’t be easy for him, but how do I know? Maybe he can take it. I know I couldn’t. Anyway, I hope he’s good. I don’t want to feel like I’m sorry for him, just let him know I’m there, if it matters…

I am thankful for what my wife and I have found here: a deeper, more intimate and trusting relationship with the Lord, my beautiful, loving and smart wife, my wonderful children, a great fellowship group that meets at our home that is fiercely diverse, a good church family where His word is brought to my ears to challenge me, and all the other things that make it possible for me to have a job, home, and means to get from here to there.

There is some things that sometimes seem to be missing. I say sometimes, because I do have occasions that I am completely fulfilled by Him in His glory. I also want to point out that I am not complaining, or at least I am trying not to. I just know that there are things, of this world, that make difficulties a bit more… easy. Again, that is not to say that I shouldn’t look beyond God to fulfill me, but, you know… that it would… help. “He never said it would be easy,” is the occasional mantra of the Christian, and I know that. I just miss my family, my wife’s family, the best Awana club with the best group of kids ever, and to a lesser extent, the mountains, the roads and valleys, the buildings, and yes, the familiarity of it all. I do want to go back to Utah, or at the least 2-3 hours away from the Salt Lake valley, or even a maximum of 5 hours.

My mom will call me and say something like, “when are you going to come over and fix my faucet?” I tell my wife, after I am done talking, about what she said. I say that of course it is all in jest, but then my wife says in many ways it isn’t and I see the truth in her words. My mom would very much like me to be home, in Utah. I would very much like to be there for her. Perhaps, someday, God will see fit that we would go back there. Perhaps not. I really pray in these times of realization, that I want to be a teacher, that I want to be a full-on missionary, that I want to be closer to my mom, that God would do a miraculous work here to get me to face those situations head-on. If God wants me to stay here, until He comes back, so be it, and praise Him for it.

When I moved here I was astounded that so many people came here, and of their own free-will! “Why?!” I would ask them. Many of the answers that came back were, “family.” Sometimes that answer rips my heart out. I want to cry out, “I know, I know! Why do we move so far from those we love.” But then, I consider the full-time missionary. They sacrifice what they know, to be with those who they… love. See that? Because I just did. We need to love the people we are with. Does that mean we forget those we left behind that we love? May it never be! You must love them all the more. Hope that they know God has laid on your heart a people who need to see clearly the love of God and His sacrifice.

Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called. ~1 Corinthians 7:24

One of the reasons I called this blog “Stranger in Rebellion” is, I like the connotation of the word “Stranger”. I am a stranger to you, but I am also a stranger here on this planet: this world is not my home. I call Salt Lake my home; I was born and I lived 40 years there, but it is not my True Home. That is heaven, where I will be with my true Father forever. The feelings I feel for the people and the place that is Salt Lake City, are just a dim shadow of what I will or should feel for my home in heaven. I long for SLC as I should long for heaven. People I’ve known and loved there for years are there, maybe they are not waiting for my return, but I am. I am also longing to be in heaven, so we shall never know the pain of ever having to say goodbye… ever… again.

~Stranger

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