Sunday, December 7, 2008
I am so excited for the Christmas season. It is my very very favorite time of the year for many reasons. I love making gingerbread cookies and lasagna, watching silly Christmas movies, and doing the towel theatre. But most of all I love that this time of year people don't look at you funny for being exuberant about service. I love thinking of fun things to do to serve and giving people little Christmas surprises but this year I'm afraid I'm going to be too stressed out to do anything really special. I really hate that finals have to come right before Christmas. For me commercialism is not so much an interfering factor with the Christmas spirit as stress is. I have so much stuff to get done I feel swamped. What makes it worse is the guilt of not doing all the cute Christmasy things I want to do. So this year, I'm going to have to figure out a way around the Christmas time problems. I really really do want to honor my savior in my little gifts because he gave us the greatest of gifts, eternal life through his sacrifice. So this is my goal to figure out little things that I can do when I have a couple minutes so that it won't add too much to my stress but I can still feel like I am trying in some small respect to show my gratitude for his incredible sacrifice.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Because of thanksgiving and other experiences, I have recently been thinking about all the things I'm grateful for. I can truly tell that my Heavenly Father loves me because of all the miracles I see around me everyday. I am grateful for the world which he has given us to live in. I am grateful that it has diversity in its landscape, in its people, and in its experiences. In my geology class we have been learning about the way in which the earth works and it is incredible to realize that even something which seems as steady and solid as a mountain has been and still is being shaped and molded. This world has so many intricate parts that must all come together in the right way for us to be able to live on it. When I also consider the chemistry class, I've been taking, it gets even more complicated, not only are the rocks in the mountains moving but the molecules and atoms in the rocks are in constant motion. Without the rules that hold everything together, it would never work to say that solid objects are made up of atoms that are mostly empty space. So our physical earth is an amazing gift from God.
Add to that the amazing differences in people that we have. Everyone has different talents that make our world amazing. My roommates are all artists, and I think just how amazing it is that they all have that gift so that they can help beautiful our world. I also think it is amazing how we have so many different cultures in this world and I'm really grateful for the opportunities to learn about them.
I am also really grateful for the experiences we can have on this earth. I am grateful for the opportunity to come to BYU and to be able to study all sorts of different subjects. I'm so grateful that I was put in my family to be raised. I'm so grateful for my parents and siblings who have always been so good at letting me know they loved me. I am grateful for the opportunity to travel that we have in this modern age. It is really amazing how fast we can get from one side of the globe to the other.
This is just a short list of the things I am grateful to my Heavenly Father for.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Recently, I was reading in John and I came across a metaphor that really stuck me because it seemed really applicable to things I've been dealing with recently. In John 16 Christ says, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned to joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for the joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." (John 16:20-22). I really was stuck by the idea of trial of the woman in travail. I think our trials often work that way that we have to work through hard times to have the blessings that are awaiting us that will bring us infinite joy.
I have been planning for a while to go to Eastern Europe to teach English. My plan was to go next winter but recently I got the impression that I needed to go in January. This kind of impulsive thing is so uncharacteristic of me that it has been really hard for me. I really have to do a lot of things that are contrary to my nature to make it work. Added to this some obstacles to going seem just impossible to overcome. But everytime I conquer one of these obstacles, I feel really happy and proud of myself and I know that if I can get everything in order, this trip will bring me a lot of joy.
I am glad that our Father in Heaven gives us trials that bring us joy.
Monday, November 17, 2008
"Ye seek me not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled" --John 6:26
I was reading the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand and after he feeds them they all hunt him down and follow him. But Jesus says they follow him only because he fed them and they are expecting more food. He teaches them "I am the bread of life" and they all look at him like "Okay. when are you going to give us more food?" Then he tries to teach them about Moses giving their ancestors mana but he will give them "living bread" and they start whispering to each other "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" When they realize he isn't passing out free food they all disperse.
I know we totally do that today, in two ways. First of all, we relate to these people in a very literal sense. Often (especially as college students we go to things because there is free food. So we ned to think of other lesson this teaches us. To question our motives for following Christ. Are we going for the food? For the social experience? To look like a good person? Our works aren't going to do us any good unless we are following Christ for the right reasons.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Last Sunday, my roommates and I went to a musical meeting where a pianist and violinist played a beautiful arrangement of one of my favorite hymns, Master the Tempest is Raging. This hymn is one my favorites because it really seems to describe my life sometimes. The words describe being tossed around by life. Around now with all the midterms and projects, I sometimes really feel that I am completely on for the ride and completely out of control of my life. But as the scriptures remind us, Christ is Lord over all the things in this world and he can bring peace. I have faith that if he can bring peace to the elements and calm the waves. He can calm the waves in my life and calm my troubled soul. This brings me great comfort to know that if I don't feel in control, there is still one who I can count on to help pilot me through the turbulent storms of life. Here is a website with the words and tune of this awesome hymn http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/m/a/mastertt.htm.
How does being an artist fit in with the gospel? That is a question that I think a lot of the students in the art department here at BYU ask themselves. We know that we have been given these talents by our Father in Heaven and so we need to use them to help build his kingdom.
One way I think we can see art's relation to the gospel is by visiting religious exhibits and just looking at religious art like we did on Thursday. By studying the religious art of the past we can learn the rich heritage of symbols that artists before us have used that we can employ in our own works.
One of my favorite pieces in the show we saw was the picture of Christ Subject to his parents which was full of so much symbolism with the cross, the water jug, the wheat basket, etc. I was also very intrigued to learn why Joseph is always shown as older. I had never even considered Jesus' siblings as being Joseph's children from a previous marriage. That was a very interesting idea which helped to understand the traditional representation of Joseph.
I think it is really important for artists to know as much as they possibly can. Great art is not created when artists have mastered just art but when they apply their mastery of disciplines outside of art so create something truly amazing. This certainly applies to the religious artworks which we saw. The artists had mastered symbolism and scriptural knowledge to create such amazing pieces.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
In Matthew 24, Christ prophesies of the terrible things to come in the last days. He tells of Anti-Christs, wars, rumors of wars, famines, pestileces, earthquakes. And then he says, "All these are the beginning of sorrows" (24:8). Holy cow, we're in trouble! Recently I've been thinking of all the scary things that have gone on in the last couple of months, hurricanes, Russia's war with Geogria, the economic craziness and it is scary. Yet, this is just the beginning of our sorrows. But the message of Christ is "Be not afraid, only believe" (Mark 5:36). Amid his prophecies of fearful things, he also includes hope; "this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world" and "he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved". It is nice to know that while we are enduring these frightful things that seem to be swirling around us these days, Christ is always there to help us and give us comfort. He has given us so many things to help us through. He has given us the scriptures to warn us of these things, living Prophets to warn and guide us in what to do, and the Holy Ghost to comfort us. All these things together can prepare us for anything, and "when ye are prepared, ye shall not fear" (D&C 38:30). I'm so glad.
Friday, October 3, 2008
I was reading in Matthew the other night and I came across the famous story of Christ paying taxes. It goes like this. Some people come to Christ and ask "What thinkest thou? It is lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?"
Jesus answers, "Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money." They bring out a coin and he asks, "Whose is this image and superscription?"
When they answer that it is Caesar's he gives the moral, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things which are God's."
This got me thinking, what things do we need to render unto God. I came up with some ideas and then I had a thought. In this story the people are told to render unto Caesar the things which have Caesar's image ingraven on them. What bears God's image?
Genesis 1:26-27 says, "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...so God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." So that which we should render unto unto God is ourself! I thought that was really cool.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
The other day, I decided to decorate my New Testament folder. I decided to paint a picture of Christ. This is the second time I have done this. Both times I have been impressed by the feelings I have gotten while doing it. It is by far the hardest thing I have ever tried to paint. I feel so inadequate to the task because in getting ready to paint Him, I have to think about what he is and what he means to me.
He is the Son of God. He is my Savior and Redeemer. He was the only perfect person to live on the Earth. My older brother who loved me enough to suffer and die for me so that I could return to be with my Father in Heaven again. I love him and want to follow him with all my heart.
How can I presume to capture even a fraction of this in my painting? I understand very well the stylization of the Iconographer's style. I feel like I can create a symbol which means Christ much better than I can actually represent him. Much of art history really inspires me because so much of the art of the past was created to honor and worship God. As an artist I feel I can learn a great deal about worship from the examples of these earlier religious artists, whether or not they are Christian. Art in the past was often very very expensive and the money alone does honor. Often I think since the time of the Reformation, Protestant (and therefore LDS) churches have frowned the idea of lavish ornamentation. But I think that it is a definite worshipfulness about it, much like the woman who anointed the Lord. Another thing I like about historical religious art is the symbolism. Images like the good shepherd, Peter with the keys, and even the image of the halo allow us to visualize and therefore better understand abstract ideas.
The picture I decided to paint was a very common Early Christian symbol of Christ, that of Christ as the good shepherd. This image I find to be very true to my image of Christ because I often feel him in my life reaching out to me when I feel lost. It is not quite done yet.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
The other day, I was reading Matt. 6. Then in Sunday School the lesson was on Pride. The teacher quoted President Ezra Taft Benson who said "Pride is the Universal Sin" and defined pride as enmity. We went on to discuss how we battle pride in our lives. This discussion immediately made me think of what I had read in Matthew. When I went back and looked it seemed that the entire chapter was about pride. Christ starts out on a religious theme discussing seeking "the glory of men" (Matt 6:2) and "Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth" (Matt 6:3). This section seems to me to discuss the "holier than thou" attitude. In two ways, first that we seek to convince ourselves of our piety through extravagant gestures to build up our pride and secondly that we seek to build ourselves up over others by showing off to them our devotion. At then end of this section Christ reminds us of the greatness of God and our own insignificance saying, "your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him" (Matt. 6:8). He then demonstrates the proper form of a prayer. The prayer of the Savior is very humble asking for forgiveness and admitting the power and glory of God.
The next poignant passage I came across was "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matt. 6:19-21) If our treasure is the things of this world, our heart will be set on pride. "No man can serve two masters" (Matt 6:24); we cannot serve ourselves and God.
Then Christ begins to compare us to the animals and plants. He reminds us that our Father takes care of the sparrows and the lilies. I loved the image when he says "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow' they toil not neither do they spin:And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these" (Matt. 6:28-29). This made me think of art. As artists, we love to exhault our creations, but it is true that even the greatest painting and sculptures cannot compare to that which God created. But not only in art, we make a huge fuss over new scientific advances in machinery, but we can produce nothing which remotely compares to the complexity and effectiveness of a plant leaf.
The final parting thoughts are "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matt 6:33). These same words are echoed in the Book of Mormon particularly when we are talking about pride as Jacob 2. One of Christ's messages through out the ages has been that we should forget ourselves and press forward with single to the light of God. But to have that eye singled means we cannot be looking down from our pride-built pedestal on our fellowmen. We must remember that we need to look up.