Recommitting to the Bible

Doesn’t that sound just so religiously provocative?  It’s like I’ve come to this realization and been reborn or something, and really getting back to the roots of my faith.

Except that’s not it.  Last year, I started reading the Gospel of Mark and blogging about it.  My plan had been to be ridiculously thorough and really pick apart every word and verse and chapter using four different translations, and really be transformed.  The problem with this lofty goal is that I am, in fact, lazy.  And I really don’t have time to read and blog about every word in the Bible.

However, reading the Bible is something important to me and something I’ve wanted to do for awhile.  So, my New Year’s resolution for 2011 is to read the whole darned Bible.  So I found a few ‘read the Bible in one year’ reading plans (thanks to Jack for her links which got me started), and ultimately decided that reading it chronologically made the most sense for me.  (I’m one of those people–if there are more people like this than just me–who can’t start a TV show or book series in the middle, even if they are completely episodic.)

So, I started reading.  I don’t read every day–it turns out that I can’t even rip a page off of a calendar every day for a year, so I probably won’t do much of anything else consistently for a year either.  But when I read, I read in the order and check off the days that I’ve done.  I’ve had a couple of days where I had large chunks of time and was able to read a bunch of it.  (Including one day when my hard-workin’ man had to do something “quick” at his office over the weekend, so we all drove downtown and I sat in the car with my hazards on in a no-parking zone reading some Genesis out loud to Hazel while Oliver hung out with his daddy for the 30 minutes that quick turned out to be.)

Anyway, I’m not going to blog about every word.  But if I think of something that maybe interesting, or may spark a good discussion, I’ll probably blog about it.  Or, you know, compose a brilliant blog post in my mind while I’m falling asleep at night and wake up to realize that my theories don’t actually hold any water when it’s light outside and I’m not so tired that zombies seem like a plausible explanation for the Fall.

Okay, okay, I admit it.  I actually liked the zombies idea.  It really did make everything else make sense.

Ten Year Baptiversary

Ten years ago today, I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  This came about after a whole ton of stuff sort of merged together to create conditions that made it an inevitability, including my very own mini-miracles.

In the church, I found Jesus.  I found home. I found my wonderful husband.  I was able to grow as a person through my work with kids, cub scouts, and the women’s organization of the Church.  I was able to develop faith in Jesus Christ, faith that is dependent on nothing but my relationship with Him–not what my family thinks, not what authority figures tell me, not what I see on TV.

I love the me from ten years ago.  I was innocent–perhaps naive.  There was joy around every corner, not the least of which was felt because of all the corners I had turned before that weren’t so joyful.  It was all simple and beautiful and the colors of the rainbow, slightly faded from all the light.  It was like getting baptized washed all the muddy browns away and everything was right.

Things have changed since then.  I’ve seen ugly, both in and out of the Church.  I’ve left the LDS Church, but not my faith in Christ.  I’ve taken the harder road, again as a direct result of prayerful consideration.  It really is so much easier to be a believing, faithful Mormon than it is to leave the Church (although I do enjoy my cup(s) of coffee in the morning).

My rainbow is still there, but it is sharply colored now; it is full of all the things I want in the world, all the things I want for my children, all the things that the world could and should be.  It’s almost hard to look at because of all the possibility and hope that it contains, along with all of the disappointment in how of it doesn’t exist.

But thinking about that–shouldn’t our relationship with God be difficult to look at?  Shouldn’t it challenge us to become better people, to become better spouses, better parents, better children, better neighbors?  I have grown up in the last ten years.  The world can’t be cotton candy forever, although that period of my life was nice and beautiful and I treasure it.  Everything isn’t ice cream and candy now, but it turns out that the rest of the meal is delicious too, or at least interesting to taste and experience.

If I could go back to the me of ten years ago, I think the only thing that I would tell myself would be to live as fully in the moment as possible, and to write it all down.  And that’s what I hope I remember to do in the next ten years–to fully live my life in the present, in the moment, and to enjoy all of the colors and meals that life hands to me.  Because ten years from now, I will be different, but I will love the me that I am now.

Bible Study – Mark 1:9-13

So, my goal is to do the Bible study blog posts at least once a week, and ideally more. With all the craziness of still trying to unpack, this week I wasn’t able to do more.

The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus

The story this week seems pretty straightforward–it is, as the title suggests, about the baptism and temptation of Jesus. There aren’t a lot of differences between the translations that I looked at, so I won’t focus any time on that.

Basically, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. When he comes up out of the water, he sees heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.

What does that mean? Did the sky open up? It is metaphorical? Did he actually see the Spirit, and was it actually in dove form? Or is that metaphorical too? Did anyone else see it?

On glancing through the other gospels, this story is actually told in all four gospels, which is incredibly rare, and probably points to its importance. John gives the most details, and says that John the Baptist saw the Holy Spirit descend out of the sky and was told ahead of time that whoever that happens to is the one who baptizes with the Spirit, and that’s how he knew that Jesus was the one.

I’m still not sure of the dove thing. I think it has some kind of symbolism, but I’m not well-versed enough in Bibleology to know that that symbolism is. (Anybody reading who’d like to elaborate… please do!)

And, back to the story, then a voice comes from heaven saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Presumably, that’s God. And I guess that helps other people understand what they saw (even if they left confused, it was clearly a monumental occasion.)

After that, the Spirit sends him out into the desert, where he hangs out for 40 days with wild animals, all the while getting tempted by Satan. Luke and Matthew give more details about what the temptations consisted of. John doesn’t talk about the temptation of Jesus. It doesn’t say in Mark, but in Matthew and Luke it is clear that he did not succumb to the temptations.

Once again, the question that I come away with is why is this passage important? Why does it matter that Jesus was baptized?
According to Wikipedia, there is some background of water purification rituals in the Jewish tradition, so baptism through water wasn’t a totally foreign concept to the Jews.

The question of baptism is one that I haven’t fully thought through or researched. Is baptism necessary for everyone? Was it necessary for Jesus? I know that my LDS baptism was a day of some significant spiritual experiences that I have had. But is baptism required for everyone? Does God care if we’re baptized? If so, why? (Note that I’m not making light of the question by being somewhat flippant, but just trying to flesh out my questions so that as I read more, I know what kinds of answers I’m looking for.) The fact that churches don’t agree on necessity, mode, or age of baptism makes me think that the whole issue isn’t totally clear. And if it isn’t made totally clear by the Bible, and according to most Christians that’s the Word we have to go on (excluding the LDS who believe in latter day prophecy which clears up a lot of the specific requirements for things like baptism), how important can it really be?

Then there is the spirit descending like a dove. I have no idea what that means.

And finally, the temptation. Why was Jesus tempted four 40 days? Is it one of those foreshadowing of things to come (since 40 is one of those Biblically significant numbers that perhaps doesn’t literally mean 40, it might mean that he was tempted for a long (infinite?) time, foreshadowing the infinite nature of the atonement)?

Also, and finally, I wonder what it is like to be ministered to by angels.

I realize as I’m reading and writing that my questions mostly revolve around ‘why was this put in the Bible’ and ‘why should I care’. It’s not because I’m a big cynic, but more that it seems like if this is the stuff that has stuck around, and is the stuff on which I should be basing my faith, what about it should be resonating with me, what about it is significant?

Five Minutes

After a day filled with
whining,
potty breaks,
potty victory celebrations,
slightly sick kids,
yelling,
fighting,
debating over ‘one more bite’,
stuck inside because of the rain…
I have five minutes.

Five minutes to sit back and close my eyes.

Five minutes to imagine my next knitting project (I’m currently between, which is always a tough spot to be in).

Five minutes to sit on the couch and read a few pages of Wicked, the book I’m currently reading.

Five minutes where I can take a mental vacation to New York City, and I swear I can smell the hot dogs cooking at the street vendor as I walk down the street, surrounded by people, all going about their business, all looking like they are in vastly different businesses, but all in the city that I love.

Five minutes to drink–and enjoy–some chocolate milk and say a prayer of gratitude for Nesquik and for sometimes not having to share.

Five minutes to listen to my husband bathing the children and hear them all giggling in delight.

Five minutes just for me, where I can enjoy what I have, what I am, what I have created, and what I will create.

Thank you, God, for five minutes.

Interfaith Marriage

It’s not as if I hadn’t thought much about interfaith marriage before. When Kullervo began doubting the LDS church, I was still a steadfast Mormon. We were living with his parents at the time, and stayed up late many nights talking about how we would relate to each other, how we would navigate church waters, and, most importantly, what we wanted for Oliver, who at the time was only about five months old.

It has been an ongoing dialogue since then. I found my church home at Cedar Ridge Community Church, but for awhile Kullervo was pretty sure he leaned towards more traditional, liturgical types of worship. And, as it turns out… I really don’t love the liturgy. So, there was the dilemma of where to go to worship when we actually prefer different styles of worshiping. But, then we were still both considering ourselves Christian.

However, Kullervo has discovered that he is, and always has been, a pagan. And I am still a Christian.

I was reading Jack’s blog the other day, and saw that at the top was written “Interfaith Marriage”, and I realized that, officially, I am a part of one.

Honestly, I’m not sure what it will mean for us. But it seems significant to realize. We still have to figure out the best way to raise the kids so that they will be open minded, tolerant people who have minds of their own and will realize that Christianity is truuuuuuue (hahaha! just kinda kidding!). Seriously, though, it’s something that we need to consider and kind of hammer down (inasmuch as you can hammer anything about parenting down, besides windowsills) while the kids are still fairly young.

Sunday Oliverism

Driving to church this morning, I was talking to Oliver about church-y stuff. I asked him if he talks about Jesus in his class at church (he said no). I asked if he knows who Jesus is (he said no). Then we had the following conversation:

Me: Oliver, do you know who God is?
Oliver: Yes.
Me: What can you tell me about God?
Oliver: (bashful) I don’t know.
Me: Well, God is like Mommy and Daddy because He loves you very, very much. But He’s different from Mommy and Daddy because you can’t see or touch him.
Oliver: Oh. I think Daddy is God.
Me: No, he’s not.
Oliver: Yes, he is.
Me: Why is Daddy God?
Oliver: He just is.
Me: Is Mommy God?
Oliver: Nope.
Me: Why isn’t Mommy God?
Oliver: (laughing like I’ve just said something ridiculous) Because Mommy is a lady!
Me: Why can’t God be a lady?
Oliver: That would be silly.
Me: I don’t think that God is a boy or a girl, Oliver.
Oliver: Yes. god is a boy. Daddy is God.

I think we’re going to have to have more discussions about this…

Annoyed at “An Invitation”

Conner received a response from the LDS records department following his resignation letter. It said the standard, “We don’t deal with this in Utah, but your bishop will get back to you” stuff that we expected. It also talked about the seriousness of the decision he was making, and they encouraged him to read the enclosed pamphlet and come back to the Church. Nothing unusual or unexpected there.

However, the pamphlet annoys me. It is titled “An Invitation” and has a photo of the statue of Jesus that you find at Visitor’s Centers across the country (world?). What gets under my skin about the invitation is that it exhorts Conner to please not be offended. “If any have been offended, we are sorry.” It encourages him to come back to the Church even if he is sinning. “To you who for any reason find yourselves outside the embrace of the Church, we say come back… and partake of the happiness you once knew.”

It’s no wonder that people assume that the only reason that one leaves the church is because he is offended or committing sin. It is no wonder that accusations of adultery, fraud, etc have been hurled at people close to me. (People don’t dare say that to me–I think it is presumed that I am “offended”.) The Church assumes that Conner either offended or committing serious sin!

And inviting him to partake of the happiness he once knew? Because he is no longer happy? I suppose it may be difficult to believe it, but while there has been difficulty in our lives since leaving the Church–knowing that family members are hurting as a result, having more choices (and thus more difficult decisions to make), coming to understand how we feel about Jesus and God and religion without the restrictions of what “we” believe being placed on us… that is all difficult. But we are happy.

I no longer consider myself a Mormon (although I did not remove my name from the registry and have no plans to do so). However, I did not stop attending church because of any of the following reasons:

  1. Conner made me–I dare someone who knows me well to try to “make” me do anything.  Try it.  Seriously.
  2. I was offended–I wasn’t.  I think Mormons are great people, and many of my favorite people are LDS.
  3. I was committing sin–I wasn’t.  Nothing serious, anyway.  I left with a valid temple recommend, thankyouverymuch–and not because I had lied or cheated or just not given it back.
  4. I wanted to be committing sin–There is no sin that is cool enough or awesome enough or anything to make me abandon my beliefs.  Now, I do occasionally drink alcohol, and coffee is on my daily must-haves, but this all transpired pre- and post-church (and, due to spiritual experiences I have had, I believe that this is with God’s blessing–the coffee, anyway).
  5. I had just never had a real testimony–I knew when I joined the Church that I was doing what God wanted.  I stand by that.  I also believe that God had a hand in me being where I am today.
  6. Satan answers my prayers–I guess if that’s how people need to deal with the cognitive dissonance of me, that’s their business, but I don’t believe that God and Satan sound the same.  And if Satan told me to leave the church, Satan also told me to join it.

There.  I’ve spoken my piece and counted to six.

And, also, anyone get the reference?  🙂