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.