Thursday, December 31, 2009

Me and Vera. =)

So I've noticed this weird trend in my life- I really really like to give my inanimate objects human names. My Chevy Silverado is named Chuck (short for Charles Maximillian Chevrolet the First). My phone is Tiberius. My laptop is Alphonso. I realized this had gone a little too far the other day when I was talking to Brenton about his new guitar. My very first question about it was, "So....does it have a name?" Thankfully, he didn't think I was a total freak and said, "Not yet. But my other two guitars are Lindsey and Roxy."
This morning I realized an unforgivable fact. My snowboard didn't have a name. I started brainstorming...it's definitely a girl board...and it's cute and young-ish...but classy and not-quite-ordinary...Anna? Clara? Suddenly I thought of the perfect name. Vera.
And this is how nerdy I am: I named her after another anthropomorphized inanimate object. I named my snowboard after Jayne's gun from Firefly. I just had this moment in my head of Jayne stroking his gun saying, "Her name's Vera." And then I stroked my board and...her name was Vera.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

This would probably be a good New Year's day post...but I'm writing it on December 22nd instead.

Today I had one of those magical moments where I found the answer to my own thoughts and prayers in someone else's words. I was reading my friend Todd's blog, and it near about floored me. He was writing about the way history tends to repeat itself, and said, "So my friends, don't be surprised if 2009 ends the way it started or if a semester comes to a close in the same fashion it began. The trick of it all is to learn from the often symmetrical journey and be better for it." Holy Cow. For me, 2009 is ending nearly exactly the way it started. I started 2009 with uncertainty and excitement, along with a fair amount of heartbreak and angst. It's been a year full of ups and downs, lessons, strange romances, wrenching of guts, and newly discovered strengths and weaknesses. And yet somehow, I'm ending the year where I started it. Same uncertainty and excitement, albeit about different people and events. And, unexpectedly, the exact same feelings of angst and heartbreak. Same cycle of existential pondering--doubt, inner anarchy, acceptance, confidence, certainty. Same Karissa. So Todd, maybe you're right. Maybe history repeats itself. And maybe it repeats itself so that we can do things better the second time around (or the third, or the twenty-seventh). I've been handed some of the same events and opportunities I was handed a year ago. The difference is, I'm going to do it right this year. I'm going to trust what I know to be right, and simply do it, even if it hurts. I'm going to move forward instead of clinging to the past. And, though I may not get it 100 percent right, I will live 2010 better than I lived 2009.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Tree-freaking-house

I was running yesterday through the pretty-old-house neighborhoods near Provo Center Street and I saw the COOLEST. THING. EVER. On 500 East, there was this huge tree with a treehouse in it! But not just any treehouse. It had a...pointy roof thing with window? Gable? Hold on....googling.....I think it's called a gable. Anyways, it had a window inside of the gable too. And it was so high up that I was both terrified and immeasurably excited for whatever children play in that thing. I wished that I'd brought my camera running with me.
Also on that run I saw a little brick house with an extension built on the front. The extension was painted--wait for it--bright orange. A thing of beauty to be sure.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Silence

Today, I was trying to explain to someone why I don't listen to music when I run. I could've explained it better, but somehow, it touched a part of my mind that I was a little afraid to share. Not because of the nature of the things I was going to share, just the closeness, the fear I wouldn't be understood. But...I want to share this. Why I run, not just to exercise, not just to lose my belly fat.
When I run...that is when I reunite with myself. I can think my thoughts...not the thoughts of BYU, or of the Provo dating scene, or the music program, or my apartment. I can think my thoughts, about love, religion, God, beauty, truth...or snow, quail, crunchy leaves, old houses, hair and wind. Whatever thoughts I want to think about, day-to-day or eternal, trivial or significant, they are my thoughts. I leave my life behind and surrender to a continual motion, a motion going nowhere particular, but taking me everywhere.
When I run, I reconnect with my body. I feel my heart beat and remember that I have a heart. I feel my lungs expand and contract and thank the Lord for giving me lungs. My muscles' ache reminds me of their presence, and my usually-awkward limbs feel long, strong, and noble. If I'm lucky, I get to that point where "every step is a struggle, but every breath a blessing" and I learn that my body, mind and soul working together can conquer.
Perhaps for some runners, music helps them achieve this state. Maybe it's a focusing mechanism. However, I think most use music as a distraction from the pain, the tedium. But that is to distract myself from the very purpose of the activity. I have music in all parts of my life--in all of my classes, on the way to and from school, while i do my homework, while i do the dishes. Music is my life. And running is a break from my life, from my music, where I can just be me in rare, blessed silence; in still, endless motion.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My self-imposed isolation

Sometimes, I get lonely. That's pretty normal I think. Right now, my roommates are home, but I don't want to talk to them. And yet, I'm craving human contact. So i browse facebook, hoping to see someone I know on chat. I write this blog post, both to figure out my thoughts and to quietly say, "Hey world...um...i exist. Just thought I'd remind you..." Somehow, this need for people makes me feel weak. I've been staring at my phone for half an hour, knowing all I have to do is text Jeff or Brenton and, odds are, I'll have myself a conversation. I could pick up the phone and call my Mom, or my grandma, or Jessie. But I don't because, for some reason, I feel ashamed that I need people. I should be able to sit by myself and do homework without having this unsettled feeling in my stomach, without wishing someone would call me just to say hi. I shouldn't NEED anyone except for myself!
And yet...I do. Maybe that's the way I'm supposed to be. I guess if nobody needed each other, we'd all live in quiet isolation. We'd be satisfied I suppose, but so many discoveries, adventures and joint work wouldn't exist. The increase in efficiency that comes in cooperation would be unheard of. The sharing of knowledge would decrease, and perhaps even literacy would decrease for, as C.S. Lewis said, "We read to know we are not alone" and if we didn't mind being alone, why read? Maybe we need to need each other. Maybe God made us need each other so we could practice needing Him.
Hmm....well, maybe I will call my mom after all.
Or, you know, step outside my room and talk to my roommates. Couldn't hurt.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Comforter

In John 14, Jesus promises to send his disciples "another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth." This Comforter was sent as a source of comfort and peace, and to "teach...all things and bring all things to your remembrance." Jesus would soon be leaving them, and they needed another comforter to guide and comfort them in his absence. We, like Jesus' disciples, live without Jesus' physical presence. This makes it so much harder to have faith and hope and to find meaning. I so often find myself wishing for more physical evidence, for something concrete to fasten my faith to. And that is why I am so grateful for the gift of the Holy Ghost in my life. The Spirit testifies of Christ to my soul and gives me a reason to keep believing. Through the Spirit, I can more easily see God's work in my life and I feel myself guided through decisions both small and significant. I also don't know what I'd do without the Holy Ghost's comforting power. So many times when I've felt stressed out, alone, or afraid, I feel the Spirit communicating God's love for me.
It makes me sad that I live so much of my life without the influence of the Spirit. I let my stress, egotism and even my fun cloud out the "still, small voice." I let my fear and doubt overcome my faith, and refuse to hear the testimony of the Spirit. And yet somehow, I sit still and listen just long enough to let the Spirit in, to hear that whisper saying, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you....let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." And on those days, I resolve to make space for this Comforter in my life.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Interesting thoughts on Environmentalism

Came across this while working on a research paper:
"Environmentalism includes desires to get closer to nature, to preserve it, to leave it alone, to clean it up, and to pass on stewardship of it to the next generation. We alternately feel possessive, defensive, protective, harmonious, and alienated towards what we blithely call the 'environment,' having very little sense of what the environment actually is. We frequently need to be reminded that the term contains no determining sense of what actually does surround us, of what place we find ourselves in, of how we may recognize or define it, and especially of how we come to value it. It is an obvious but troubling fact, for instance, that downtown Toronto or suburban Los Angeles are as much 'environments' as the Galapagos Islands or James Bay. We distinguish them by the degrees and kinds of human involvement in their physical or imaginative construction, rather than by some essential inherent difference."
Onno Oerlemans in Romanticism and the Materiality of Nature

Compensation?

You know, today should be a really dreadful day. For parts of it, it was. I had an absolutely terrifying piano lesson, I haven't slept enough in a few days, I had to stay home from Divine Comedy to write a paper, and it looks like there is no possible way to get everything done in time. But on the other hand-my English class was canceled so I got an extra hour to practice, I woke up on time for the first time in recent memory, I got to see Jennie at the library today, Brenton brought me muddy buddies and gave me the best hug I've had in a while, I have beef stew in my belly and I'm listenin to some Ben Folds. I feel really happy and content and peaceful. And why shouldn't I? All the past few days I've prayed for my stress not to overwhelm me, to find a way to be happy. And so I've found little blessings strewn across my room.
So, in spite of it all....life is good.
Wow.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The rush

So yesterday I learned something about performing-when done right, it feels crazy cool. Last night at masterclass, I had to...I mean...got to...perform one of my jury pieces for the studio. I decided to play my Mendelssohn "Andante and Rondo Capriccioso", which is my longest piece and probably my hardest. I didn't really feel prepared, but somehow I didn't feel nervous either. My feelings could probably be best summed up in the phrase: "Ok, let's just get this over with." As I sat at the piano and began to play, I felt more focused than I ever have when playing that piece. My every thought centered on the music and I realized I was playing pretty dang well. Of course, as soon as that thought crossed my mind I slipped up--badly. But I was able to recover and get to the end of the piece. When I finished and stood up to take my bow, I felt unbalanced ,like I'd abruptly dropped an enormous weight I'd been carrying all day, or like someone I'd been playing tug-of-war with had let go of me without warning. All my muscles instantly relaxed, leaving me feeling weak and dizzy. I staggered back to my chair, my brain reeling to the point where I could barely form words to respond to my classmates' congratulations. Pumped full of adrenaline as I was, I didn't stop shaking for a full 3 minutes after I got to my seat..I felt unsettled, shaky, and completely used up, but a little voice inside me said, as if I'd just gotten off a rollercoaster,

"WHOA!! Let's do that again!!!"

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The rest of my thankfulness. =)

I was so busy having a great Thanksgiving replete with..food...and food...and laser tag....and futile attempts at finishing my homework...practicing...yeah....so here's the rest of the alphabet!
H-Horchata. Best. Thing. Ever.
G-Glee. The emotion, not the TV show.
F-Frolicking. Except when I run into bushes. And dogs. And people. Sometimes I just get caught up in the moment, ok?
E-Endings. Like when a book or a movie has an excellllent finish. Like "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog." Also when one phase of my life so a new one can begin.
D-Dogs. Because of them I can say, "Good news! I saw a dog today!" Yes I have two Elf quotes in this post series.
C-Correspondences. I love writing to my missionaries. Well, not writing. Just getting letters. And emails. And pictures and audio! Two awesome things!
B-Bread products.
A-Arches National Park. One of my favorite places on earth and the site of some freaking fantastic memories last year!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks

I have so much to be grateful for that if I made a comprehensive list, I'd be sitting here typing for eternity, and never get around to enjoying all the blessings I was listing! And that would be true ungratefulness! So, taking inspiration from the Alphabet, I will try to sum up a few things that I'm grateful for. And, in a feat of daring skill, I will do it BACKWARDS!!!
Z: Zeal. I love talking to people who are passionate about what they do, whether it's biology, education, Chinese, or swordfighting. People like this make me want to make a difference in my own field!
Y:Yams. I don't like them...but some people do. And I'm glad they get some happiness out of it.
X: X. The unknown factor. Because life wouldn't be fun if you knew it all before.
W: Wonder. Those moments when you see an enormous rainbow, a sunset, or a fascinatingly translucent leaf, and you just have to hold your breath and stop thinking for a minute.
V: Vacation. My justification for blogging instead of practicing right now.
U: Underwear. You know, life just wouldn't be the same without it. And I really like my colorful spotted pair...
T: Trees! Climbing in them, sitting underneath them, wandering through forests of them...trees are terrific!
S: Smiles. From Elf: "Smiling's my favorite!" And other people smiling is my favorite too! Especially when it's their real smile, the kind that comes without trying because they're so happy!
R: Roommates. The other night, we watched Back to the Future and had a dance party in our living room. We call each other strumpets and don't let each other cave, and sometimes we make whole conversations out of us each talking to ourselves.
Q: Quails. I don't see them very much, but whenever I run across them crossing the street or hiding behind a bush, I get happy. I don't know why.
P: Pie. I've had an abundance of it this week, and more is coming. Pumpkin, chocolate, coconut cream...I'm excited already.
O: Opportunities to serve. I used to feel so helpless, seeing all the bad in the world and not being able to do anything. But in the last year, I've been handed so many chances to make a difference! I hope they keep coming and that I can make my own, and I'm so thankful for the people who create opportunities for me to help out!
N: Nerds. And by that I mean, people who will know EVERYTHING about a given subject, be it LOTR, physics, or the history of rock, and will sit and teach me about it.
M: Magic. Not in the witchcraft sense, in the sense of wonderful things happening that I don't want to find an explanation for, in the sense of serendipitous happenings that make me smile, that aren't really magic but give me such a happy feeling I don't know any other way to describe it.
L: Laws. I think we have too many of them, but I appreciate that we have a justice system that keeps safety and order.
K: K. Yep, the letter K. The awesome, angular letter that makes me just a little different from all the Carissa's out there. I also appreciate other people who spell their names with K when it's normally a C, like Kristian and...Karoline? Except I don't know any Karoline's. Kristian, if you're reading this, I appreciate the spelling of your name.
J: Jokes. The stupid kind, like "Why did the monkey fall out of the tree? Because it was dead." And the "inside" kind, that give my friends and I a shared language.
I: Ice cream. Because it is the best thing ever.
I think I will finish the alphabet tomorrow. Till next time!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Under the fig tree, I saw thee

One of my very favorite stories in the New Testament is found in John 1:43-51. This story, found only in the gospel of John, tells of the conversion of Nathanael. And here is how it goes (or at least how I am telling it):
Phillip lived in Bethsaida, along with Andrew and his brother Peter. When Jesus went through Galilee calling disciples, he found Phillip and said, "Follow me." Phillip instantly discerned that Jesus was the Messiah, and searched for his friend Nathanael, eager to share this good news. However, when Phillip excitedly announced, "We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write," Nathanael was skeptical, asking, "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" I imagine he was filled with a mix of excitement and reluctance as he followed Phillip to see Jesus, thrilled that this man may be the Christ, but trying to guard himself against disappointment. I'll let John tell the next part,
"Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Phillip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel."
What just happened here? Why did Jesus' declaration "When thou was under the fig tree, I saw thee" incite Nathanael to declare His divinity? John doesn't tell us, but, branching from an idea suggested to me by a teacher at an EFY once, I have a theory. Nathanael obviously had shared in Phillip's search for the true Messiah. A guile-less man, he truly desired the kingdom and salvation of God. Suppose that, driven to his knees by fear, doubt, or sorrow, Nathanael had that day been praying to know...anything. What he should be doing with his life. When the Messiah would come. Whether a Messiah was coming. Maybe he was just seeking comfort the best way he knew how, in a place of solitude. Under the fig tree. And maybe, just maybe, he got off his knees, trudged into his house, and minutes later, Phillip runs in, shouting that he has found the true Messiah. Nathanael's heart leaps, but he still fears. He's been disappointed before. But Phillip is his friend, and so he goes to see this Jesus. And then, this revelation, "When thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee." And Nathanael realizes, this man is God. And God loves and knows him, one Israelite man in a fishing town in Galilee.
My theory could be way off. But it helps me to understand some things about my Savior. When I doubt and fear and plead on my knees for solace, Jesus sees me. He is with me, and He loves me. How can I not declare, "Thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel"?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Angels round about you to bear you up."

Hey, look what I can do! Yes, I am technologically retarded. Yes, I just barely figured out how to change the font, size, and color on my blog. Don't judge.
Last week for New Testament,we went to the Museum of Art for a tour of the exhibit, "Types and Shadows: Intimations of Divinity." A very nice lady walked us around the exhibit, pointing out specific works and discussing their detailed symbolism. I'm sure what she had to say was interesting and insightful, but to be honest, I don't know. I have an extremely short attention span, and so after a few minutes, my mind drifted away from her presentation and I began wandering the exhibit, looking at the other works of art. One of my favorites was Carl Bloch’s etching “Gethsemane."

I think my favorite aspect of this etching is the way the Bloch uses light. The garden is a dark, lonely place, except for the soft, radiant shaft emanating from the heavens with the angel. This light, like God’s love, cuts through the darkness and brings peace and beauty to the dismal setting. I love the way the artist portrays Jesus; He is exhausted, and in agony, but at the same time, His face looks loving and peaceful, drawing strength from the comfort His Father sent Him. This picture reminds me that even in the midst of the most exhausting, agonizing trial any human has every experienced, Christ was able to take comfort and strength in the divine help God sent Him. My personal challenges are not even comparable to Christ’s, and probably matter very little in the entire framework of eternity. But I know that God loves me far more than I could ever deserve., and since my trials matter to me, I think it’s safe to say that they matter to Him. He even said, “I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and my angels round about you to bear you up.” (D&C 84:88). I can testify that I have felt the Lord bearing me up throughout my most difficult challenges, through the Comforter and through the earthly angels He sends me. I love my Savior, Jesus Christ, and will forever be grateful to Him for suffering and dying that I might live.

Monday, November 9, 2009

There is music in my soul today!

I learned the coolest thing in New Testament this week. Did you know that several passages in the New Testament are actually quotes from early Christian hymns? Check this one out:
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." (Colossians 3:16)
First, I love the phrase, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom." If we allow Christ's words to really "dwell in us," permeating our thoughts, actions, and habits, our lives will be infinitely richer. And by surrounding ourselves with the words of Christ, the Source of all knowledge and wisdom, we will also grow until, as the hymn states, we have "all wisdom."
This hymn also speaks to me about the power of music in worship. Through the hymns, we feel the Spirit and learn important principles. According to this hymn, we can even "[teach] and [admonish] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." The hymns are actually my favorite part of church; I love the spirit they bring to the meeting, and the way I can express all I am feeling in ways words can't, "singing with grace in [my] heart to the Lord." Music brings flavor and joy to my life, and gives me an outlet to express my gratitude, sorrow, joy, and sing praise to my God.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Some thoughts on love

I know this is a somewhat radical concept in our society of fairy-tale ideals, but here goes: how bad is it to marry someone who you are not "in love" with? I'm not referring to marrying for money or convenience, or marrying someone you despise. I'm imagining a scenario in which you know someone very well, respect, admire, and even love them, but feel no romantic affection for them. Maybe you're even physically attracted to this person, but this attraction is something quite separate from your feelings for them as an individual. Is it so wrong to want to spend your life with someone who understands you, who you love to spend time with, and who makes you a better person, even if you don't get butterflies in your stomach when you hear their name and the the thought of them does not induce a giddy euphoria?
I mean, from what I've heard, the "in love " feeling usually fades some time into a marriage anyways, hopefully replaced by a deeper love that is "built" and not "fallen into."
I suppose the only dangers with this course are that you could later fall "in love" with someone else, or that you might always wonder what you missed out on. Obviously starting out "in love " may be more desirable than not. But I've often been counseled that in choosing a mate, being in love is not the most important thing to consider. I submit that it may not even be essential. Surely marrying someone you love and respect without romance is better than living life alone, or even marrying someone you're crazy for but who doesn't share your priorities, goals, or morals.
As a disclaimer, I should add that I've never actually been in love, as far as I know. I've had "crushes" on boys, and I have deeply cared about people before. But no feeling I have felt has approached the elusive "in love" I hear people talk about. In fact, I don't even know how to define "being in love." So maybe I'm missing the point here. Maybe it is something so great that you wouldn't want to marry without it, or live your life without having experienced it. But in my limited knowledge, it seems that someone could have a happy, loving marriage without being all mushy about each other beforehand.
Also, for any who may be concerned: I'm not getting married anytime soon. Not a chance of that. I was just thinking today and thought I'd post to see what others thought. Thoughts, anyone?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Insights from Matthew

For the most part, Matthew's narrative of Christ's death is extremely similar to the other gospel accounts. However, Matthew includes a few details and at least one extra anecdote that bring additional shades of meaning to the story of the Lord's death and Resurrection.
First, Matthew's narrative adds additional and unique detail to the story of Judas. While the other gospels tell us that Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus with a kiss and got thirty pieces of silver out of it, Matthew goes further. In chapter 27, verses 2-10, we learn that Judas later regretted his betrayal. When he "saw that [Jesus] was condemned," he went back to the chief priests and returned the thirty pieces of silver, saying, "I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood." The chief priests more or less waved him away, saying, "What is that to us?" Judas, full of remorse than went and hanged himself. I find this additional insight into Judas’ betrayal to be compelling and meaningful. No longer do we see Judas as the one-sided villain, as merely the traitor who sold Jesus for silver. Instead, I at least see Judas as a man who loved Jesus, who perhaps started out really wanting to follow and serve him, but who was blinded by greed and doubt. The Matthian account even says that he “repented” (27:3) of his crime, though we do not know whether this was a full repentance, or what Mormon calls, “the sorrowing of the damned” (Mormon 2:13). None of this excuses Judas’ crime, of course. He betrayed the Son of God, the Christ, to satisfy his own greed. However, Matthew’s account brings an additional layer of meaning to the story, showing a little more of Judas’ humanity, and helping the reader to refrain from judging Judas, a duty that should be reserved for God alone.
Another important aspect in Matthew’s account is his focus on Old Testament prophesies about Jesus. I found two specific instances of this in the Matthian Passion narrative that do not appear in the other gospels. The first is related to the account of Judas’ suicide. When Judas returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests, they used it to buy “the potter’s field, to bury strangers in.” According to Matthew, this fulfills Jeremiah’s prophecy that “they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; and gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me” (Matthew 27:9-10). Another example of Matthew’s focus on prophecy occurs in Matthew 27:35, when the soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ clothing. The other gospels mention that His clothing is divided among the soldiers, but Matthew points out that it fulfills that “which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among then, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.” Matthew uses the prophecies of the ancient prophets to show help his audience understand Christ’s divinity and purpose, especially in his narrative of Christ’s death.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The smell of paper and change

If I lived 100 years ago (or 200, or 300, or 400. Take your pick.) I would have wanted to work at a printing press. The crisp, musty smell of new paper, the thick, honest blackness of home-made ink, and the sounds of the press hard at work have an unmatched romance for me. I could get lost for hours in the methodical organization of setting type, and would grow strong pulling the levers of the press and inking the machinery. But most of all, I'd be in it for the feeling that my work mattered. I'd be helping spread new ideas and bringing the world together in a community of readers. I remember learning in elementary school about the lives of children my age in earlier centuries. I was shocked to hear that young boys had to choose their trade young, sometimes as early as 9 or 10. "How can you decide your life's work that early?" I wondered. Famously indecisive, I spent most of last semester worrying about what I would major in, and now that I've declared, I still have freak-out moments where I question my decision. But now I know: if I lived "way back then," (whenever that was) I would choose printing as my occupation. Hands down.

At the Crandall Printing Museum last week, I learned about two admirable printers: Johannes Gutenberg and Benjamin Franklin. Gutenberg, the inventor of the movable type printing press, spent 20 years perfecting his creation: experimenting with ink recipes, inventing a hand mold for casting type, and creating the machinery. I really admire his persistence and dedication to making the printed word more accessible. His efforts enabled the widespread printing of the Bible, bringing the word of God to more of the world. Further, he revolutionized the way people communicate and share ideas by making books more accessible.

Benjamin Franklin was a man of many occupations: inventor, philosopher, postmaster general, writer, and politician. But, as I learned from the good folks at the Crandall museum, our old friend Ben considered himself first and foremost a printer. As proprietor of the "Pennsylvania Gazette," he used the written word to spark thoughts of revolution, and encouraged the use of the printed word as a weapon for freedom. An epitaph he wrote for himself at 22 read:
The body of
B. Franklin, Printer
(Like the Cover of an Old Book
Its Contents torn Out
And Stript of its Lettering and Gilding)
Lies Here, Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be Lost;
For it will (as he Believ'd) Appear once More
In a New and More Elegant Edition
Revised and Corrected
By the Author.

I guess knowing that one of my heroes of American history shared my love for the written word just excites me and makes me feel a little more connected to the past.

And that's what the printed word does, isn't it? Connecting past generations to future, culture to culture, across time, nationality, race, class, and gender? We would be nowhere without this integral aspect of our culture and society. Thank you Gutenberg, Franklin, and all other unsung heroes of printing's history.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Away in a Manger (New Testament Blog Post)

So, about two weeks ago, I walked into my apartment to Michael Buble singing "Let it Snow," followed by Christmas song after Christmas song. For my roommates, the Christmas season evidently starts at the beginning of October. This irritated me at first, but as I've thought about it, I realized, why confine the joy we feel at our Savior's birth to one month of the year? We owe Him gratitude and praise every day of the year, not just during December. So along those lines, here is my blog post for today.

Looking at the two birth narratives in the New Testament (Matthew and Luke), I found it interesting that neither narrative contains “the whole story” as we commonly hear it. The main elements of our Nativity story seem to be split fairly evenly between these two books. Matthew starts with Mary becoming pregnant by the Holy Ghost, (1:18) and Joseph’s reaction to this. I really admire Joseph’s behavior in this story. First, when Joseph discovers his fiancée is pregnant, instead of making “a publick example”, he determines to “put her away privily” (Matthew 1:19) so that her life and reputation won’t be completely shattered. Then, when the Lord’s angel tells him of Jesus’ parentage and commands him to wed Mary, he immediately obeys, disregarding any personal cost to himself.

Next Matthew tells the story of the wise men. In Matthew 2, the Wise Men come to Herod and ask, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:3). Herod sends them to Bethlehem, where they find Jesus and his mother, bringing the famous gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, (Matthew 2:11). The Lord warns them not to return to Herod, and tells Joseph to flee to Egypt to save Christ from Herod’s slaughter.

Luke’s birth narrative describes the births of both Jesus and John the Baptist, alternating descriptions of each. Luke shows Gabriel’s announcement to Zacharias and then to Mary, demonstrating Zacharias’ unbelief and Mary’s strong faith. He shows the visit of Mary and Elizabeth, when Elizabeth declares the holiness of Mary’s unborn child and Mary praises the Lord for her blessings (Luke 1). Then, Luke tells of John’s birth, and his naming. In Luke 2, we read the famous Nativity story: Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem for their taxes, but since there is “no room for them in the inn,” (Luke 2:7), they stay in a stable, where Mary gives birth. The angels announce this glorious news to shepherds, who come “with haste” to worship their newly born Savior” (Luke 2:16).

To me, Matthew’s account seems to focus mostly on Christ’s kingly and Davidic origins and His role as King of the Jews, especially the story of the Magi and Herod. Luke’s account seems to center mostly around Mary and her reaction to the birth, as well as the reaction of common people (the shepherds, Simeon, Anna). However, both narratives assert the divinity of Jesus Christ. Matthew quotes Gabriel as saying, “He shall save the people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Luke records Simeon’s words, “Mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32). Though Matthew and Luke emphasize different events in their respective narratives, both make it clear that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world.

Playing is its own reward

A wise friend told me this story last week. It really helped me put a few things in perspective.

Once there was a clever old man who lived in a suburban neighborhood. One day, this old man was in his sumptuous study, trying to take a nap, when the sounds of children playing on his front lawn woke him. This had been a recurring problem, and the old man decided to put a stop to it. Now, an ordinary ornery old man would have run out waving his cane and chased the kids off his property, but this ornery old man was clever. He stepped out his door, identified the ringleader, and said to him, "Oh, you children. The sound of your playing brings me such joy. If I pay you each a dollar, will you come back and play on my lawn tomorrow, just as loudly as you are today?" The boy agreed, and the children all came and played on his lawn the next day. Every day that week the children came and played on the old man's lawn, and every day he paid them each a dollar. However, when the next week came, he only gave each child 50 cents. The children came and played, but their fun became less boisterous. Over the next week the old man gradually paid them less and less, until one day, the children complained. "We're playing as hard as we can," said the ringleader, "and all you can give us is 5 cents a day?"
"I'm sorry," said the old man, "I'm only a poor old man. That is all I can afford."
"Well, then this isn't worth our time," said the boy, as he led his gang of children away from the house."
And the old man never had a nap interrupted again.

Monday, October 12, 2009

New Testament Post

Who was Luke?
Luke was the author of the Gospel According to Luke and the Book of Acts. The Gospel of Luke chronicles events in the life of Jesus: his birth, ministry, miracles, teachings, death, Atonement, and Resurrection, and contains valuable information not found in the other Gospels. It is from Luke that we gain the most detailed account of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth and childhood. Without Luke, we wouldn’t have the story of the Angel Gabriel appearing to Mary, the birth of the Savior in a humble stable, or the announcement of Christ’s birth to the shepherds. Luke tells us about of Jesus as a 12 year-old boy, “going about his Father’s business” by teaching the doctors in the temple (Luke 2). Additionally, Luke’s gospel has more of a focus than the other gospels on Christ’s interactions with His female followers, such as the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Acts, a continuation of the Gospel, chronicles the events of the early Church after Jesus' Ascension. This book mostly chronicles the teachings and travels of the Apostle Paul.
In Colossians 4:14, we learn that Luke was a physician. This could explain his interest in Jesus' healings. Also, it would explain the thoroughness and historical focus of his Gospel. Luke clearly interviewed several sources, including some from Jesus' immediate family, from which we gain intimate details about Jesus' life, especially His early childhood. As Dr. Holzapfel pointed out in class, doctors tend to be interested in cause and effect, in the history behind a medical event. So as a physician, Luke would be drawn to researching the history behind Jesus' life.
Luke was one of Paul's traveling companions. He traveled with Paul to Macedonia (Acts 16:10), Ephesus, and Caesarea (Acts 20). He pleaded with Paul not to return to Jerusalem, where he would surely be arrested and killed, but, in hearing Paul's testimony, demonstrated his faith by saying, "The will of the Lord be done" (Acts 21:14). He followed Paul to Jerusalem, where Paul was tried, persecuted and arrested (Acts 21). He then accompanied Paul to Rome (Acts 27) to appeal to Caesar. On the way, Paul, Luke, and their companions were shipwrecked for weeks. (Acts 27) before finally reaching Rome. Luke was Paul's sole companion for at least part of his second imprisonment (2 Timothy 4:11), possibly until Paul’s martyrdom.
I think, however, that the most important description we can give Luke is the one that He gives himself. In the Joseph Smith Translation of Luke 1:1, Luke says, “I am a messenger of Jesus Christ.” Luke’s purpose in writing His gospel was to testify of Christ, that those who read, “mightiest know the certainty of those things” (Luke 1:3). A true disciple of Jesus Christ, Luke testified of His birth, ministry, Atonement, and Resurrection, bringing others to the Savior that they might have eternal life. I am so very grateful for his testimony and the additional insight it gives me into the life of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I'm not waiting for my ship to come in, I'd just like the bus to be on time.

I'm about to do something revolutionary. I'm going to write a blog post that isn't for my New Testament class. I don't think that anyone really reads this blog, but if you do, listen up kids because this is big news. Well....not really. I just wanted to share some thoughts.
The other day, I was returning from the grocery store. I started for the bus stop carrying my heavy bags of nutritious goodness when I glimpsed, waiting at the stop light, THE BUS! My bus! I started running, but my human legs couldn't keep up, and the bus had soon paused at my stop, and carried on without me. Disappointed, I made my way to the bus stop, groceries in tow, and sat on the bench, only to have the sprinklers turn on. I jumped out of the way and found a place to stand where my groceries wouldn't get wet. As time passed by, doubts crept into my head, "Maybe...the bus isn't coming? No, of course not, the bus always comes. It's just in...BYU game traffic. Oh my gosh, maybe the bus doesn't run on game days. Maybe I should walk home. Maybe...maybe...maybe." I checked the schedule compulsively, wondering if it really had the right times on it. Soon a family showed up to wait at the bus stop, which gave me hope that the bus was coming. After a 45 minute wait, my heart leapt with joy as I saw the bus round the corner, and I could finally set down my grocery bags and settle into a bus seat.
We all spend a lot of life waiting: waiting for love, for our paycheck, for job applications to process, and waiting for answers. Sometimes answers take longer to come than expected. You wait, and wait, and then you start thinking, "Maybe there's not an answer this time. But there's always been an answer in the past...but..maybe...maybe I made that up. Maybe I can't know." Sometimes you see other people getting their answers and you're left waiting and wondering if you've missed your chance. Sometimes, you get drenched by the sprinklers while you wait, as problems with friends, family, school or health bombard you. Sometimes the schedule that you have in your hand doesn't match the one the Bus Driver has. But we can take courage in knowing that, no matter the timing, the bus always shows up eventually, and answers to prayers always do come. We can take hope as we see that other people are waiting for the same answers that we are. And when the bus finally rounds the corner, and we can set down our burdens and rest in the peace of the Lord, the wait will make the final outcome so much the sweeter.
Keep waiting. The bus always comes.

Mark's account of Jesus' death, 600 words or less.

Mark begins His account of Jesus’ death in chapter 14, with the woman who came and anointed His head with spikenard. When the disciples rebuked her for this apparent “waste” of money, Jesus defended her, saying “She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of a memorial of her.” (Mark 14:8-9). This woman understood that Jesus would not long be with them, and chose to honor Him.
That night, Jesus met with the Twelve for what is now known as the Last Supper. At this Passover meal, Jesus predicted His betrayal by Judas (Mark 14:18), His impending death, (Mark 14:23), and the unfaithfulness of the Twelve (Mark 14:27). He instituted the ordinance of the sacrament, introducing it as “the blood of the new testament, which is shed for many,” (Mark 14:24), speaking of the new covenant to come with His death and Resurrection.
Then, Jesus walked with His disciples to Gethsemane, telling them to wait, while He prayed. He took with Him only Peter, James and John and, in Mark’s words, “began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy.” (Mark 14:33) He left His disciples and went on further, completely alone, saying “My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death.” (Mark 14:34) He went forth, falling on the ground and praying, “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” Returning, He found the three disciples sleeping, and, after rebuking them, told them to watch and pray. He left twice more, praying the same words, and both times, returning to find them asleep. Following Christ’s sufferings came His betrayal by one of the Twelve, Judas Iscariot, who with a kiss turned on His Lord and Master. As the multitude came to lead Jesus away, all His disciples “forsook Him, and fled,” leaving Him alone to face the ordeal that would follow. He was taken to the high priest and questioned, answering nothing except to declare His divinity. Later, Peter denied knowing Christ 3 times, in accordance with the Savior’s prophesy.
After being questioned by the chief priest, Christ was carried to Pilate, and again answered nothing to his questions, save to declare that He was the King of the Jews. Though Pilate found no fault with Jesus, he went with the crowd’s wishes, releasing Barabbas and sending Jesus to be crucified. Soldiers mocked Him, smiting and spitting on Him. Finally they took Him to Golgotha, where He was crucified between two thieves, with the superscription “The King of the Jews.” The scribes mocked Him, saying “He saved others; himself He cannot save” (Mark 15:30). At the ninth hour, Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” and then shortly after died. He was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.
When the Sabbath ended, several women came to the tomb to anoint the body of Christ. They saw two angels there, who told them that Christ was risen and to tell the disciples. Soon after, Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene, and two disciples that He walked and talked with. He appeared to the Twelve, saying “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16).
Jesus lived. He died for us all. And He lives again.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Astonished

Astonish: to fill with sudden and overpowering surprise and wonder; amaze.

When was the last time that you were really and truly astonished? I'll be honest: I can't remember. I know I've been surprised, amazed, startled but a full and complete astonishment seems a little outside my realm of emotion. I take a lot for granted, I know, and maybe should be astonished a little more often at the wonders that surround me.
In his Gospel, Mark describes several individuals who were "amazed," "astonished," or who "did marvel" because of the works of Christ. When Christ forgave a man his sins and then healed him of the palsy, the onlookers were "all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion." (Mark 4:12). Beyond mere surprise, these witnesses recognized the miracle Christ had done, and looked to God with wonder and rejoicing.
Later in Mark's Gospel, Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead. Mark says that those who watched were "astonished with a great astonishment." (Mark 5:42). Of course any of us would be astonished if we saw someone rise from the dead, but I think this goes a little deeper. Perhaps when the girl's parents and Jesus' disciples saw this miracle, they realized to some degree Jesus' power and divinity and were astonished that a Being so mighty had come to dwell among them.

At other times however, those who followed Jesus were shockingly apathetic. In the account of Jesus feeding the five thousand and the seven thousand, Mark makes no mention of any uproar or strong emotions. It seems as if the people were hungry, food appeared, and so they ate it. No more and no less. In fact, Mark says later, “they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.” (Mark 6:52). Because of their stiffneckedness and pride, these people had become accustomed to the blessings Christ bestowed upon them regularly, and even came to expect them.

It’s easy to become accustomed to the miracles and the blessings that God gives to us. They come so often, and in so many forms, that sometimes we focus on the blessings themselves and not on the Source from which they spring. I see my wonderful friends, my educational opportunities, and the beauty of nature around me and I delight in these things. But I often forget that it is only through God that these blessings come to me. I become like the Nephites, who over time became “less astonished at a sign or wonder from heaven.” (3 Nephi 2:1). I eat the loaves and the fishes without remembering the One who multiplied them for me. When I truly take time to consider the blessings God has given me, I am astonished and “stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me.” I marvel especially at the love behind the Atonement. I can’t even comprehend that mercy. I need to try and appreciate all God’s miracles in my life, especially the Great Miracle of the Atonement and to let myself become astonished by them.




Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona"

As I've read the gospel of Mark, I've started to see how very real the people in these stories were. The details about Peter's character and personality especially have brought him alive to me. It's easy to think of prophets in the scriptures as higher beings who never mess up because of their superior spirituality. I'm not saying that I don't think Peter was an incredibly spiritual and faithful man, just that I've come to understand that he and the other disciples were human and it's been a great comfort to me.
Peter was definitely imperfect: he got confused about doctrine (Mark 9:5-6, 10), and at times openly challenged Jesus (Mark 8:32-33, 14:31). When Christ was in the garden of Gethsemane, Peter succumbed to his physical and probably emotional exhaustion, falling asleep at the most important time of his Master's life. In one of his most famous moments, Peter denied even knowing Christ.
Despite his imperfections, Peter still kept trying to faithfully follow his Lord. When Christ asked His disciples, "Whom say ye that I am?" Peter confidently answered, "Thou art the Christ." (Mark 8:29). He was fiercely loyal to Jesus, saying "Although all shall be offended, yet will not I." He "left all" to follow Jesus (Mark 10:28) and even followed Him alone to the trial at Pilate's (Mark 14:54). Though he did fear and falter, Peter even had enough faith to walk on water (Matthew 14:29-31). He eventually became the head of the Church and a great missionary.
Peter inspires me because, despite his weaknesses, mistakes, and flaws, he persevered. He truly loved Jesus with all His heart, might, mind, and strength, and had the faith and solidity of a rock (for which he was named). He was weak, but He let Christ make His weaknesses into strengths. Reading Peter's story helps me to hope that if I love and follow Christ, He can turn my weaknesses into strengths and make me all that He wants me to be.
The gospel of Mark gives us such insight into Peter's character because it was actually written from Peter's memoirs. In New Testament, I learned that Peter and Mark actually served together in Rome, and it was Mark's interviews with Peter that served as the main source for the gospel of Mark, along with several other eyewitness accounts. The witness of Peter and many others bring a dimension of reality and applicability to the gospel that could not be found in dry, secondhand historical facts. This drives home to me the importance of writing and sharing our own gospel experiences. As we hear of each others' hardships, rejoicings, and epiphanies, we can become enriched and gain hope and knowledge for ourselves. Keeping a journal can help spread our stories to future disciples, but I think we can have even more immediate results. I've noticed that as I participate in and initiate conversations about spiritual insights, I learn from others' thoughts and become more open to my own personal revelation. Some great conversations with my roommate have started during scripture study with, "Hey Andria, what do you think of this verse?" Let us all strive to be witnesses for the gospel, both by standing up for our beliefs and for sharing our experiences and learning with those around us.

Monday, September 14, 2009

And so it begins...

Well, folks, here it is. My blog. Yep, a blog. I've watched several of my friends get blogs, enjoyed reading a few of them, ignored the rest, and silently vowed never to get one. I didn't see any particular reason, and the idea of spilling my guts to the entire Internet, or even to a small group of friends who "follow" my blog, sounded kind of unappealing. As any one who knows me can attest, I love sharing my thoughts about anything and everything, but, in a strange contradiction, I also enjoy a certain privacy with my "favorite" thoughts. Maybe I just like the mystique of having things I don't share-an illusionary secrecy, but an enjoyable one nonetheless. Also, I worried that blogging would become my next big addiction, a la Facebook or texting.
So, why, you may ask, am I getting a blog? Well, actually, you're probably not asking. You probably don't really care. But I'll tell you anyway. Honors New Testament. Dr. Holzapfel requires everyone in the class to have a blog and to post weekly. So most (or all) of my posts will be related to that class. Maybe after this class I'll continue this blog and just share my thoughts about life. It might be a good way to sharpen my writing skills.
I can already see my first goal for this blog: conciseness. I've rambled on long enough. Time for this reluctant blogger to go to bed.