19 June 2015

Mormon Bible Study: Should Christians Fight?

I am fortunate enough that I was born and raised in an excellent family. My parents will celebrate their 40th Anniversary next year, and they're just cute. Among the many things they worked hard to teach my siblings and me, they taught us not to hit. We don't hit; it's not nice. We don't solve our problems by fighting.

I grew up, and I married a martial artist. He believes that sometimes, we should fight.

I eventually came to a point where I was feeling significant internal conflict between these two ideas, and in that space where I struggled to know what was right, I turned to the scriptures to find out what they say about fighting. It wasn't what I expected.

First, the sixth Commandment:

Thou shalt not kill. -Exodus 20:13

I always thought that was pretty cut and dried. But right there, in the Old Testament, still in Moses's time, I started to notice some apparent conflict: The Lord gave this commandment, but then He also said:

Rise ye up, take your journey, and pass over the river Arnon: behold, I have given into thine hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land: begin to possess it, and contend with him in battle.
-Deut. 2:24 (emphasis added)

And that was not the only time that He explicitly commanded Israel into battle - into killing. Now, we know that the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so I was confident that these things could be brought into harmony with each other. The beginning of that is to consider the meaning of the Hebrew word, ratsach, that was used in Exodus 20:13.

"Ratsach means 'to kill, murder, slay.' (Strong's Concordance, 266)" This same word is translated into various English words, the most frequent being, "slayer" (16 times), and "murderer" (14 times). From the ways that this word is used in other passages, it's pretty safe to say that this passage could have been rendered as, "Thou shalt not murder." This was a good beginning for settling the question of whether or not fighting is appropriate for a Christian.

Another place to look for guidance is the life of Christ. And when I do that, I notice that it's not all peace-love-joy. Christ frequently incurred the ire of people around Him, notably the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Sanhedrin, groups which included the priesthood leaders of the Jewish faith of the time.  Indeed, Christ warned the Apostles as He sent them out that they should expect serious trouble:

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother...

Christ, Himself, did not shy away from conflict, occasionally including physical conflict.

Of course, the was not the only way that He solved problems. In fact, the scriptures give us a lot of insight into when, and perhaps more importantly, how conflict is to be conducted. As is usually the case, the Lord has very high standards for where our hearts should be when we find ourselves in a conflict situation. There are whole collections of scriptures that deal with our conduct with our fellow men, and it is clear that while fighting is a possibility, it's definitely not the only one, nor is it the first thing we should try. There also aren't any, "well, you were fighting, so we'll give you a pass" passages in scripture. In fact, we are commanded to love our enemies. Christ had high praise for peacemakers. He commands us to not only be slow to anger, but warns that anger may endanger our salvation. We do not solve all our problems by fighting, nor even most of them. However, though we can expect that, if we are obedient, the Lord will fight our battles, we can also expect to have a hand in our own deliverance:

Behold, could ye suppose that ye could sit upon your thrones, and because of the exceeding goodness of God ye could do nothing and he would deliver you? Behold, if ye have supposed this ye have supposed in vain.
-Alma 60:11

In fact, the Nephites considered self-defense to be a duty that they owed to God:

And they were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God; for the Lord had said unto them, and also unto their fathers, that: Inasmuch as ye are not guilty of the first offense, neither the second, ye shall not suffer yourselves to be slain by the hands of your enemies.
-Alma 43:46 (emphasis added)

But what about the martial arts, specifically? Does it matter what type of  self-defense we are learning? A concerned acquaintance recently shared an article with me that suggests that the Eastern martial arts are hopelessly contaminated by Buddhist and Zen philosophy and should be avoided by followers of Christ. At first glance, the concern is understandable, but I do not personally believe that all martial arts should be avoided simply because they grew up in non-Christian cultures. Brigham Young addressed the issue when he said:

Be willing to receive the truth, let it come from whom it may; no difference, not a particle. (Teachings of the Presidents: Brigham Young, chapter 2)

Certainly, dealing with non-Christian traditions requires care and the spirit of discernment, but members of the Church who have received the Gift of the Holy Ghost need not shrink away from truth found outside of our own heritage. The Holy Ghost's mission is to guide us to all truth! By this same logic, we could condemn the medical sciences as being hopelessly contaminated with secularism. It makes as much sense. But Brigham Young taught us that:

If the infidel has got truth it belongs to “Mormonism.” The truth and sound doctrine possessed by the sectarian world, and they have a great deal, all belong to this Church. As for their morality, many of them are, morally, just as good as we are. All that is good, lovely, and praiseworthy belongs to this Church and Kingdom. “Mormonism” includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel. (Teachings of the Presidents: Brigham Young, chapter 2) (emphasis added)

We know that the Lord speaks to all nations; it should not come as a surprise that some truth can be found in the traditions of all peoples. I know, now, from experience, that martial arts contain a great deal of truth and knowledge about how the human body works, and that the philosophies that have developed around the art I have personally studied also contain more than a little bit of truth about things that are spiritual in nature. This also should not be a big surprise, as the distinction between the physical and the spiritual is largely artificial.

So, yes, I think that there is solid justification for Christians to fight in certain situations -even a duty that they be prepared to do so- and the martial arts are one viable option for learning how to go about doing it.

11 June 2015

Home From Japan

The Daddy goes to Japan every year, and it's always fun to see what gifts he finds to bring back. A few years ago, he brought me a lovely stash of fancy brush pens. This time, I asked if he could look for measuring cups and spoons. And he found them. They're metric, and I have my eye on some stuff on Pinterest I want to learn to read so I can try cooking it.

He found a few more picture books, too. And we're having a good time looking through those and will spend the next while slowly working through them, figuring out what they say and putting the sentences into my flashcards. 

I'm even saving several bits of wrapper and packaging to slowly figure out how to read them before I throw them away. Maybe that's silly, and overkill, but if like to know what they say. Especially the postcard that came in one of my books. 

This last one is actually a gift he gave to Tigress, but we all get to listen to it. I was so excited: I understood a large section of "Do You Want to Build a Snowman"!

It's so nice to have him back! The two weeks he was gone felt like a long time, even with a 4 day trip to my parents' place and 2 more days with my sister. All the cool gear he brings is nice, but the best part has been chatting with him all day long. In spite of daily calls and Skype, it feels like there is a ton of catching up to do. It's so nice to be able to do it.

05 June 2015

Visiting Kate!

We had a lovely day, today! Actually, it's been a lovely couple of days. We went to see my sister and her family. After the kids went to bed, I watched the end of a basketball game with her and John. It was surprisingly fun! I think I could learn to enjoy sports, if I was able to watch with them more often. They didn't mind my clueless questions. (So. Blue and white are playing tonight. Which ones are the "good guys" today?) The crowd doesn't match the players; they were all yellow. Turned out they did match; it was the blue team's other color. They were very patient, and it was fun. White won, in overtime. 

Then, this morning, Kate and the kids and I headed to the zoo. Her little dude, Mr. T, is usually so placid, but he was so excited about "going to see so many animals!" It's funny how quick kids grow up when you're not looking; I knew he's older than Tigress, but I was surprised at how articulate he's getting. It was adorable -- he kept saying exactly what his Daddy had just said. 

So, we went to the zoo. And we saw lots of animals, as advertised. And we rode a carousel. And generally had a lovely time. 

By that point, everyone was getting tired, footsore, and hungry, so we had hugs and said g'bye: Mr T needed a nap, and we needed to head for home. 

By way of a cute Japanese shop I'd heard about. We didn't stay long; everyone was pretty worn out. But it was awesome. I definitely want to go back, hopefully with no kids, so I can have a better look around the place. 

Then, because we were right close, and the kids don't get to see it very often, we stopped by the temple as well. 

It was kind of a quick trip, but I'm so glad we went!

24 May 2015

Weely Wrap-up: A Win in Japanese!!

Easily the most exciting thing in my week has been a huge leap forward in my Japanese studies! I recently started browsing through the All Japanese All The Time blog, and came across his suggestion to study whole sentences, rather than vocabulary and grammar in isolation. I've been trying this week, and I don't think that I've ever done anything so effective! Part of the magic is the way that he suggests collecting: out of real Japanese materials (not the Engilsh-Japanese student "ghetto") that you're using because they are fun. Right now, I'm enjoying my flashcards immensely. Can't get enough. I've always kind of liked reading the dictionary, and right now the sample sentences in my Japanese-English dictionary are completely fascinating, so I'm building a list of sentences out of my dictionary, built around words I already know. So lots of the sentences I'm studying are ones that have one or two words that are new, and the rest is familiar. But the really cool thing is that I'm learning to say things in a Japanese way. And, being more comfortable with saying things in a Japanese way, the simple ebooks I've been working on are getting easier -- after only one week!! I have my eye on some Stargate episodes in Japanese, and I've kicked up the Japanese talk radio background noise, since that helps to get the language and patterns into my ear. The kids were eating up the Avengers in Japanese that I found on YouTube, and they ask for Shimajiro. I switched my phone's default language to Japanese, and I'm trying to persuade my phone to show me stuff in Japanese on Pinterest. And it's working. For all of us. Every day I understand noticeably more than the day before - without putting in tons of effort. Because, after all, there's still the rest of life to accomplish.

And, in spite of my enthusiasm for my dictionary and flash-cards, we did do quite a bit of non-Japanese stuff.

Nature Study went particularly well. Our pond is really coming to life. We saw tadpoles - the first time I've seen them, ever - and fed turtles. The kids got muddy. We watched water-scooting bugs and listened to bird song. I found plantain and burdock, and identified the remains of the Jack-in-the-Pulpit we found last week, even though the flower was broken off. We noticed that "our" mouse has opened a new hole - the 3rd we know of on his house. I still have some wildflower photos to identify. The pond was gorgeous. The woods were beautiful. It was fascinating. I love Nature Study!

Hero(8) has been hard at work, learning to blow bubbles. Not that that's terribly educational. But it's important to him, and he's so happy with himself! We've had several pieces of gum hit the floor... ew. But he's making progress. Even if it is hard to photograph his successes.

We were minding our own business, attempting some bookwork on Friday, when Nature Study came to us. We discovered that a Mama Mallard built her nest in the neighbor's rhubarb. Happily, they don't eat the rhubarb; hopefully they'll wait until the ducks are done nesting to finish taking out the plants. In the mean time, we have front-row seats, since the fence is easy to see through. I've seen 5 or 6 babies, but didn't get a good enough view for a reliable count. The neighbor says there's 8. I'm wondering why they decided that a suburban yard, a mile or more to the closest drainage pond, much less a real pond, is a good place for a nest? No idea. But I'm delighted.

The kids have been doing some great stuff around the yard. Hero has decided that mowing is one of his favorite jobs. And they all like the planting we've been doing. Hero and Dragon each did their own pots. Dragon chose red ones, appropriately, Snap-dragons. That makes me smile.

Hope that your week went as well as ours did!

17 May 2015

Psalm 4: Hear My Prayer

When I sit down with a passage of scripture,  the first thing I want is to understand the meaning of all the words in the passage. My parents raised me consistently exposed to and talking about scripture language (in many ways, it's its own dialect), so I am fortunate that, for the most part, the distinctive language of the scriptures doesn't bother me, even with the King James Version. But even with that, sometimes the scriptures, and especially the Old Testament, can be tricky. Psalm 4 has one of those tricky spots. From verse 2:

"...how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing?"

This didn't sound like the usual sort of leasing, where you rent something, so I looked it up in Strong's. It comes from the Hebrew "kazab," which is typically translated as lie, but was also rendered as deceitful, false, liar, lies, and, here and in Psalm 5, as leasing. When you render this with one of those other words, it makes a lot more sense: "... how long will ye love vanity, and seek after lies?" I looked it up in the 1828 Websters, just for fun, and it appears that this used to be meaning of leasing, but it was obsolete back then already. So, at that point, I backed up and looked at the beginning again.

Photo courtesy LDS Media

I love that. The Psalmist combined both a plea for help and a faith-boosting reminder of the times He has previously assisted. During prayer is a great time to think about how the Lord has cared for us in the past, precisely because that will boost our confidence before the Lord, and it seems to me that quiet confidence or assurance is a key to unlocking the power of prayer (which is distinctly different from arrogancy, or from selfishly demanding). I found myself browsing through scriptures about prayer. There are so many to love. I scrolled through dozens, dealing with a bunch of situations. Invitation after invitation to seek Him in prayer. I ended up making a scripture chain of some of my favorites.

Psalm 4:1
Hebrews 10:35-36
Matthew 21:22
Luke 6:12
Matthew 17:19-21
Words of Mormon 1:8
Colossians 4:2
James 5:16
Jacob 4:10

Sweet Power of Prayer, April 2003

Brother Nelson's wry humor appeals to me, but he has a great point, too: the act of praying isn't hard, and that's by design. It's not something that only holy people or smart people or whatever kind of People Who Are Not Me do; prayer is for all of us. Our Father wants us all. He wants to hear from us; He wants to help us. Not only does He want to hear from us -that's only half the equation- He wants us to hear Him.

14 May 2015

Weekly Wrap-up: the one in the garden

Our week has included a delightful lot of gardening. Our new Apple tree is blossoming. This is the first year it's done that, and I'm extremely excited about it. I don't know if this will lead to actual apples, since the tree we put in to be a pollenator is a year younger, and didn't flower. But it's an exciting step, nonetheless! 

Some of my early stuff is up in the garden, and we've been enjoying chives from the garden regularly for a week or two, now. 

Most of the rest doesn't make very exciting pictures, yet, but the Lemon Balm is up, and I planted purple cone flowers, and forget me nots, and all kinds of fun things. Hero has a Goblin Dwarf Gallardia that he loves because it's a Goblin Dwarf, and we were reading the Hobbit when we found it. The peppers are in, and I need to get rid of some more strawberries so I have room for my tomatoes in a few weeks when we're past danger of frost. 

Over the weekend, Hero and a couple of his friends participated in a "Mini Mudder" and got super dirty, worked extremely hard, and learned they were tougher and more capable than they realized. 

We had some good nature study, too. Found a Jack-in-the-Pulpit and saw an Oriole. The plant was a lot easier to photograph than the bird!

So, as is usual for us at this time of year, we spent a ton of time outside. But we did do some bookwork, too, and Hero found time to re-read some of his Percy Jackson books as well. Violin lessons were great, too. The boys picked out songs for the recital at the end of the month. 

08 May 2015

Dandelion Delight

It's dandelion time! I know, it's strange, but I love dandelions. My children bring them to me as gifts, and that's adorable. Also, they're pretty.

Also, it turns out, they're good medicine. They've been valued for ages.

 Imagine you are moving to a new world, leaving behind everything you know and love, for life in an unknown country. If possible, you'd probably want to bring along favorite foods and most-used medicines. ... It's ironic to me that dandelions were once so cherished that people intentionally intentionally brought them across the ocean so they would not be separated from them. But then fast forward a few hundred years later and many people in North America poison dandelion with chemicals to discourage its abundance... -Rosalee de la Foret

Imagine you are moving to a new world, leaving behind everything you know and love for life in an unknown country. If possible, you’d probably want to bring along favorite foods and most-used medicines. What would those be for you? Tomatoes? Pumpkins? Antibiotics? Dandelions?

Text from Dandelions and Delicious Dandelion Fritters - LearningHerbs
Read More at http://learningherbs.com/remedies-recipes/dandelion-fritters/
Copyright © 2015 LearningHerbs.

So, it's dandelion time, and I'm playing. Tigress and I went out and we picked all the blossoms in the front yard. These, I popped into the dehydrator for a few minutes on the lowest setting (you don't want to overdo it, or they'll turn white), and they are in oil on the back porch, steeping. In about a month the oil will be ready to turn into lotions and soaps.

We added some of the greens to our sandwhiches today, too. Having heard a lot about how bitter dandelions are, I was a little nervous about this, but they were mixed with some romaine, and I couldn't taste them at all. The kids ate them up. And they asked to make something out of the flowers. So we'll be trying some Dandelion Fritters, probably tonight.

I also tried making some tea from the dandelion leaves. That was not as good as some other flavors I've tried, but it wasn't too bad, not nearly as bitter as I thought. Maybe this bitterness is less than I'd been lead to believe. 

If I can find enough blossoms, then there are some other things I want to mess around with. One of the ladies in an online group said that she dries the leaves, crumbles them, and then uses them like parsley. Several mentioned that they add them to soups and smoothies. There is also Dande Flower Syrup, I've had my eye on this Dandelion Bread for a while, now, waiting for the flowers to start blooming. And, if I really hit the jackpot for blossoms, then there's this Dandelion Jelly that is supposed to taste like honey. That would be fun to make, just to see if it really does. Over at Eat The Weeds, they've got a whole collection of recipes. Their Pumpkin Dandelion Soup sounds interesting. I have no idea if I'd actually like it, but it could be fun to make. And there's Dandelion Lemonaide from Herb Mentor.

I never knew there was so many interesting things to do with a few Dandelions!

21 April 2015

The Slow Unfolding of Spring

This was a month ago. I wrote this, and then I got sick, and didn't see it, didn't think of it, for almost exactly a month when I found it in my drafts this evening. It was such a lovely trip to the park, and a productive Nature Study. The pond is thawed now, and last week we saw the turtles that give it its name. It's remarkable the difference the month can make.

We have a nature preserve we like to visit, and see what is happening in the pond. They closed the pond area for the winter, and last week was the first week we were able to go look at the pond since last fall.

It was still frozen solid. 

We went back this week, and I was surprised at how solid it still is; we've had temperatures in the mid 60s all week, and even had rain one day. 

There's some free water around the very edges, but mostly, the pond is still frozen pretty solid. 

The boys tried stabbing the ice with sticks, but for the most part, the ice still didn't care. 

Dragon noticed that some of the sticks on the ice are sunken, embedded into the ice.

We think that the water is melting a little in the daytime, so the sticks are in puddles in the day, then at night it refreezes. It isn't very warm today, so the sticks were still embedded in the ice. 

Then we headed out into the woods by the pond. Nearly all of the snow is melted, and there is less mud (yay!!), but things are mostly still dormant. We talked about how some animals live in a brush pile like this. Hero was pretty surprised that a pile of sticks could be so useful.

Our little Tigress is delighted by all the going "side" we've been doing, and she has to be right in there, exploring and discovering with her brothers. She was easily the muddiest when we got home. Not long after this picture was taken, she tumbled off that root and was fine... except for the mud. 


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