Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nativity

I am going to take a break from blogging for the Christmas season. I have too much on my plate and need a vacation. So I am wishing you all a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR! I'll be back in January. I hope you will all still be around. Oh, and for your Christmas present here is my very favorite painting of all time.


It is called "Nativity" and is by Brian Kerkisnick, here is a bigger picture. I saw it once at the BYU Museum of Art and it is stunning in real life, 17 feet long X 7 feet high. I can't even begin to say how much I LOVE this painting. It is my favorite depiction of the Nativity because it seems the most realistic-- Mary breastfeeding Jesus (yes, she would have), Mary attended by two midwives (yes, she would have been), the angels pressing down to see-- young and old, the dog with her puppies in the stable, and Joseph overwhelmed and awed. Someday (when we are rich) I'd love to have a HUGE copy of this painting to hang in my house. I love it.

Here is a picture that shows you just how big it really is. If you are ever at BYU, there is a much smaller copy of it on the 4th floor of the Joseph Fielding Smith Building (JFSB) by the English Department offices.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Wishing You a Mary Christmas!

I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed by Christmas this year. Maybe it is because we are kind of poor this year and in an effort to save money I am trying to make most of our presents-- which takes MUCH more time than buying them at the store! Also, this is our first Christmas in our own home and I am feeling pressure to decorate it cute (why--I'm not exactly sure?) and I have a little one-year-old who makes doing anything harder. Needless to say I haven't been thinking much about the real reason of Christmas. Given my Christmas mindset I was VERY grateful for the reminder in Relief Society about Mary and Martha. The scriptures say that Martha was "cumbered about with much serving" while Mary took time and "sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word." (Luke 10:36-42) I realized that I have been so "cumbered about" with myself and my self-imposed expectations (really does anyone else care how my Christmas tree is decorated- not really) that I have not taken the time to sit at Jesus' feet and reflect about what Christmas really means.

I realized that I have been spending a lot of time and energy on things that are of no worth. Things that have been taking me away from my Savior and which have not made me a better disciple. I've decided that this Christmas I don't want to waste my time being a Martha-- but instead want to focus on being a Mary. I am going to try to focus on Christmas activities and traditions that bring me and my family closer to God rather than those that overwhelm and stress me out. I want to have a MARY CHRISTMAS (ha, ha, get it?), one centered on the Savior and not on worldly things. I've thought of a few ideas to try out, I'll let you know how I do! Any suggestions?

I thought this was a beautiful painting of Mary and Martha from an African perspective. I love to see pictures of Jesus as black, Native american, Asian, etc... It reminds me that he isn't just my Savior but the Savior of ALL mankind.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Rhoda

Acts 12: 13-15

Background:

Herod had "stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church" (Acts 12: 1). He killed James the brother of John with the sword (12:2) and put Peter in prison during the passover. He put 16 soldiers to guard him and intended to kill him after Easter. The church prayed "without ceasing" for him (12:5). On the night before Easter an angel appeared to Peter and broke the chains off his hands and ordered him to put on his clothes and follow him out of the prison. Peter passed safely by the two guards who were sleeping next to him and the 14 guards guarding his cell. The angel left him when he entered the street and then Peter went to the house of Mary the mother of John, surname Mark (12:6-12).

Facts about her:

  • her name means "rose";
  • she was at the house of Mary the mother of John (surname Mark) praying with others who were gathered there (probably praying for Peter to be delivered out of prison);
  • when Peter, the prophet newly delivered from prison, knocked on the gate she hearkened to his knock;
  • she recognized the prophet's voice and was so excited that she didn't open the gate but ran inside to tell everyone that Peter was outside;
  • everyone thought she was crazy and she had to "constantly affirm" that she knew it was true;
  • they told her that if he was there then it must be his angel;
  • finally, after Peter had continued knocking, they opened the door and "were astonished" to see him standing there;
  • Peter told them how the Lord delivered him out of prison and commanded them to "shew these things unto James, and the brethren" and then he departed.

Speculations about her:

  • she was probably fairly young. She is called a "damsel" which means a young unmarried woman. Another damsel spoken of in the New Testament was the daughter of Jarius and she was 12 years old (Mark 5:42) . It would be a good guess to say she was around the same age;
  • one can only imagine her joy at finding Peter at the gate. It is probable that only moments before she had been praying to God to free and protect Peter, when all of a sudden she heard a knock and there was the very prophet she had been praying for. Who knows, it could have been an instantaneous response to her prayer!
  • perhaps Peter came to Mary's house especially because of the prayers of this young woman. In 12:12 it says that "And when he considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John." He doesn't stay long, only long enough to tell them their prayers had been answered. Part of me believes that he came specifically to answer the prayer of a little girl who prayed with perfect faith.

My thoughts

This young woman hold a very special place in my heart. Her story makes me laugh, especially when I imagine her being so excited about hearing the prophet's voice that she forgets all about him and runs back inside to tell everyone. Steven C. Walker in the 1978 Ensign also expressed his amusement about Rhoda, he said,

"... little Rhoda became so excited at meeting Peter at her door that “she
opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before
the gate” (
Acts 12:14)—leaving the prophet of the Lord, who only moments before had prison gates opened for him by angels, cooling his heels outside. "

Not only do I love her excitement and energy, but I admire her tenacity. She stuck firm to what she knew to be true, even when others were mocking her and criticizing her. She didn't back down and she didn't deny what she had heard. She knew the voice of the prophet and she could not and would not deny it. Her story helps remind me about how exciting it is to hear the voice of the prophet, and how that excitement should make me want to share it with everyone, even at the expense of being criticized. What amazing integrity and strength for so young a woman!

Oh, she is also mentioned in this wonderful talk by Prophet Spencer W. Kimball. It thrills me that prophets of God are aware of and impressed by the stories of the young women in the scriptures!

What we can learn from her:
  • God answers the prayers of women;
  • Prayers work miracles, especially when given with the faith of a child;
  • God cares about little girls, and will even send a prophet to answer their prayers (think about President Monson and the little girl in the tabernacle);
  • We must "constantly affirm" our belief in what we know is true, even when others tell us we are crazy;
  • Hearken when the prophet knocks and learn to recognize his voice;
  • Don't leave the prophet standing on the doorstep :)

Questions:

  • Have you ever had a time in your life when people thought you were crazy because of your beliefs? What did you do?
  • Why is it so hard to stand up for what you know to be true?
  • How do you imagine the rest of her life was changed by this experience? Do you think she ever doubted God would answer her prayers?
  • Why do you suppose she didn't open the gate and left the prophet standing outside?
  • Why has no one painted a picture of Rhoda (at least not that I can find)? This is a MAJOR oversight in my opinon!