Sunday, November 29, 2009

The rest of my thankfulness. =)

I was so busy having a great Thanksgiving replete food...and laser tag....and futile attempts at finishing my 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.