Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Someday We'll Find The Rainbow Connection

This morning a friend of mine texted me to tell me he found the Muppets Original Theatrical Soundtrack CD in his car. So lucky me, I immediately got The Rainbow Connection stuck on repeat in my head for the next eight hours. In an attempt to assuage my need to get rid of this earworm, I have written a post dedicated entirely to the strange and stranger myths that have attempted to explain or justify the existence of rainbows throughout history.

That being said, I wasn't too invested in the topic and so a large majority of this information is pulled directly from Wikipedia. Please consider this my citation of everything below. Enjoy!

What Is a Rainbow?

Rainbow said go to war?
The Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from the Sumerian civilization in Mesopotamia and is amongst the earliest surviving works of literature. In a Victorian translation of the poem, King Izdubar sees "a mass of colors like the rainbow's hues" that are "linked to divine sanction for war." (Violent rainbows?!) And later on the king sees the "glistening colors of the rainbow rise" in the fountain of life next to the Tree of Immortality.

Rainbows were a bridge to the Norse gods
In Norse mythology there is a burning rainbow bridge (Bifröst) that reaches between the world (midgard) and the realm of the Gods (Asgard). In the Norse compilation called the Prose Edda, the King asks the enthroned figure of High to tell him what exists between heaven and earth and High explains that the gods built a bridge between heaven and earth of three colors that is very strong.

Rainbows = Greek Goddess Iris
Iris is the personification of rainbows and messenger of the Gods in Greek mythology. She links the gods to humanity. She is one of the goddesses of the sea and sky; she travels with the speed of wind from one end of the world to the other and into the depths of the seas and the underworld.

Rainbow Snakes? (Read: Aussies Are Weird)
In Australian Aboriginal mythology, the rainbow snake is the Creator in the Dreaming, which is the infinite period of time that "began with the world's creation and that has no end. People, animals, and Eternal Beings like the Rainbow Serpent are all part of the Dreaming, and everyday life is affected by the Dreaming's immortals," in almost every Australian Aborigine tribe. In these tribes, of which there are over 50, actual rainbows are gigantic, often malevolent, serpents who inhabit the sky or ground. This snake has different names in different tribes, and has both different and similar traits from tribe to tribe. (Wikipedia)

Rainbow = Reminder of No More Noah Length Floods
In the book of Genesis in the Bible, after Noah saved the animals and his family from the great flood, God placed a rainbow in the sky as a covenant with the people that he would never again destroy the earth with a flood.

Rainbows Shoot Lightning
The rainbow as the heavenlyarcher's bow dominates ancient Hindu mythology. Indra, the Hindu god of thunder and war, uses the rainbow to shoot arrows of lightning to kill Asura Crta, a premordial demon-serpent.

Ahh! Rainbows Eat People!
For the Sino-Tibertan language speaking ethnic groups in Burma called Karens, the rainbow is considered as a painted and dangerous demon that eats children.

Rainbow Experience Initiates New Religious Members
The Fang people of Gabon in Africa are initiated into the religion by a "transcendent experience when they arrive at the rainbow's center, for there they can see both the entire circle of the rainbow and of the earth, signaling the success of their vision." The Fang also prohibit their children from looking at the rainbow.

Caution: Rainbows Can Change...Your Gender?
In Bulgarian legends, it is said that if you walk beneath a rainbow, you will change genders: if a man, you'll begin to think like a woman, and if a woman, you'll begin to think like a man. While most Bulgarians don't believe in the superstition, some of them tease each other and joke around.

Pot O' Gold at the End of the Rainbow
In Ireland, a common legend asserts that a "pot of gold" is to be found at the end of a rainbow, for the person lucky enough to find it. This treasure is, however, guarded by a Leprechaun.

Close Your Mouth: You'll Catch a Disease from the Rainbow!
In Amazonian cultures, rainbows have long been associated with malign spirits that cause harm, such as miscarriages and (especially) skin problems. In the Amuesha language of central Peru, certain diseases are called ayona’achartan, meaning "the rainbow hurt my skin". A tradition of closing one's mouth at the sight of a rainbow in order to avoid disease appears to pre-date the Incan empire.

Rainbows Unite Star-Crossed Lovers
In a Chinese folktale, Hsienpo and Yingt'ai are star-crossed lovers who must wait until the rainbow appears to be alone together. Hsienspo is the red in the rainbow and Yingt'ai is the blue.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Be Careful What You Ask For: The Power of Prayer

"Prayer is powerful" sounded like a dumb cliche to me as a kid. I actually disliked the concept because I felt like people were trivializing God. Asking God for something in a prayer and hoping it would happen felt too much like asking Santa for Christmas presents. My parents taught me that even though we exchange gifts during holidays, it is more important to work for and earn things so that you understand their worth and value better.

This logic told me that I shouldn't be able to just ask God for things; I had to work hard enough to earn them. But I also understood that I was human and flawed and incapable of being worthy of pretty much anything God could give me...so my logic had a big hole in it. And being stumped, I continued to pray because there wasn't really any other choice. I asked God for help when I needed it, but all the while I felt guilty that I was asking someone so perfect to help someone so imperfect. I didn't think it was fair for me to ask God for help, because he needed to focus on the people who reeeally needed his help - the homeless, the hungry, the enslaved, the kids' whose parents didn't care and got into trouble, the unemployed, the friendless, etc. etc. etc.

Fortunately as I got older I learned more about the true nature of prayer, little by little. And finally in high school I began to develop a new perspective on prayer. I think it may have been what I heard during youth retreat talks or Sunday sermons or perhaps the Holy Spirit just guided my thoughts with a little more persuasion. However it happened, I am grateful because I began to understand that prayer isn't a greedy little child doing a "gimme gimme" speech, but rather a very honest and raw conversation with our Heavenly Father. And Heavenly Father doesn't have a limit to what he can do. Asking for guidance in my life doesn't take away from the love he can provide to anyone else. Rather, it actually increases his ability to do so by using me as an instrument of his word. (Now it sounds so simple and I wonder why I couldn't figure it out earlier.) So long story short, when I began to pray with the perspective that I am a daughter of my Heavenly Father and he loves me and wants to help me accomplish things that are in my best interest, I no longer felt guilty that I had to ask for help, because I understood that he understood that obviously I need a little a lot of help and it was entirely in his power and his desire to do so.

And as I progressed in my spiritual journey, I began to notice when my prayers were answered. In 2011, I asked for guidance, and he opened my eyes to Philippians 4:13. In 2012, I asked for truth and he introduced me to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In 2013, I asked for an opportunity to grow closer to my cousin and now I'm taking care of her kitten until she moves which gives us a chance to hang out and bond. And this morning I asked for the opportunity to share Heavenly Father's love with those around me...and started my week off with this chat with my friend and coworker just ten minutes after getting into the office this morning.

I was actually most surprised that she knew were both the church and temple are! And then it made me happy that she thought of the LDS church in a positive light. And additionally that joining the church strengthened our friendship. And now it looks like I may have the opportunity to share the Gospel with her. Praise be to God!

So moral of the story is...be careful what you ask for. If you lift up your soul in prayer and share with Heavenly Father how you are feeling and the trials you are facing; if you lift up your heart and express gratitude for everything he has given you and ask that your ears and eyes might be opened; if you pray in Christ's name for strength and support; if you are ready to hear His answer...

He will answer you.

Want more information about the power of prayer? Below are several resources with great information and insights, including a printable poster, and article for kids, and several conference talks, including one from our Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Into Marvelous Light I'm Running

As I prepared to go to church this morning, I had a lot of songs running through my head. I knew most of them from Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at Drake University where I got to play keyboard in the worship band. One of my favorites showed up in the mix, Marvelous Light. Along with the others that I now have on an Intervarsity playlist on Spotify.

I have not written a blog post for the last year (save the remaining nine days), because I did not know what to write. I was in a time of transition and I was wary that I might post something that I would disagree with only months later. Now that I have my feet on the ground and I'm heading in a definite and positive direction I am excited to begin sharing my thoughts once again.

In my past, especially during this hugely transitional phase, I couldn't see how or more importantly why Heavenly Father was working in my life. I often felt like my life was a giant hedge maze. As if God created this intricate pathway for which only he had the secret map and I was just one of many trying to make it to the end without freaking out. I vaguely remembered the beginning and the end, but after awhile I would feel confused, frustrated, alone and I'd walk in circles, attempt to jump high enough to see over the hedge, and follow other maze goers who looked like they knew what they were doing to no avail. And then finally I would make a tiny bit of progress and celebrate that small accomplishment with all my soul. And then the process would repeat...lost again.

But when I read this passage in Doctrine and Covenants, it made sense and the the feelings and promptings from the Holy Spirit I had begun to feel were confirmed through scripture.

"For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round." D&C 3:2

I know now more than ever that our Heavenly Father is a God of order and that although many times the full plan or reasons for pieces of our lives don't make sense, the big picture is always, always clear. Thanks to modern day prophets and the scriptures, I know why I am here, why we are here. I know how I am supposed to live and what God asks and expects. I know that sometimes I'll make mistakes and sometimes I won't listen, but I know that because I have taken on the covenant of baptism, I have access to the Holy Spirit and can communicate constantly with our Heavenly Father, who helps me through this life and gifts me with blessings as I am ready and ask.

The other side of this coin is what Heavenly Father asks of us. 

"...I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them." 1 Nephi 3:7

Heavenly Father asks us to do big things and important things. Even though they usually feel small and trivial, following the commandments and listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and of equal if not greater importance, acting upon the words, feelings and thoughts we receive from our loving father, impacts our eternity beyond comprehension.

"Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day." D&C 4:2

This afternoon during our Relief Society meeting, our discussion turned to talking about how we live our lives on earth to be prepared for the day when we leave this life and at peace with the work we have done and the contributions we will leave behind. It is important to live your life as if you will later watch it on TV. I don't think we should live our lives to "look good," but if you can imagine existing in heaven with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, having the full knowledge of the Gospel and all eternal truths, will you want to see the actions you are taking now and the efforts you made, or lack thereof?