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Friday, July 29, 2011

Mario Kart: the Single Banana Peel

After the "Avatar" series, I was a bit stumped as to where to go from there.  But the nerd in me found another gospel tie within a game that has forever changed my life.  Mario Kart!  No matter which version, which system, or the size of the screen, I love love love Nintendo's Mario Kart!  As I discussed this blog idea with a fellow missionary, we both came to the agreement that the best version of Mario Kart is Mario Kart 64.  The first introduction to four player Mario racing and an increase of items to use against your foe, making it epic!

This series is dedicated to the items.  What are they used for?  What is the spiritual connection for each of them?  So, to kick this off, we will talk about the single banana peel.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Avatar: Energybending

 Against all odds, there is another "Avatar" post.  Originally I had planned on sticking to the four general bending arts, but I have had a few requests (or demands) that Energybending have it's place as well.  So, here we are!  Energybending!

Long before Firebending, Aribending, Waterbending, or Earthbending, any of the four nations or the Avatar, there was Energybending.  Energybending is the ability to bend life energy.  People would bend the energy within themselves.  By bending a person's life energy one can give knowledge instantly or remove one's bending completely.  It is a very dangerous art.

To bend another's life energy, your own spirit must be un-bendable.  If there is any sign of weakness  in one's spirit (or bendability), they risk being infected by the spirit of the one they are bending and can be corrupted and or even killed.  
"The true mind can weather all the lies and illusions without being lost. The true heart can touch the poison of hatred without being harmed. Since beginning-less time, darkness thrives in the void, but always yields to purifying light". (The Lion-Turtle)
Energybending can come with a cost.  But those who have a strong spirit can master it.  In the series, there are only two known users of this art: Aang and the Lion Turtle.  Aang (the Avatar) is faced with a giant moral dilema at the end of the "Avatar" series;  he can either kill the evil Fire Lord Ozai (which is what the Avatars of the past guide him to do), or follow his heart and let him live.  Ozai is the epitome of evil and one of the greatest Firebenders ever (if not the best).  To let him live would allow him to strike back again one day, but killing him would go against everything Aang stands for.
So, what does he do?  Aang realizes that the only way for there to be peace and still have Ozai live is for him to Energybend Ozai, taking away his Firebending.  Aang had the spiritual strength needed for the task.

Aang was prepared.  He studied, pondered, and worked hard.  He also stayed true to his beliefs.  I realize that this may sound repetitious, but it's the little things that matter.  To build up our spirits, we must study, ponder, pray, and work!  We are at war with Satan.  He is strong, but we are stronger.  We will win!  To win, our spirits must be strong.  Satan is constantly working at our spirits.  He tries to weaken us, corrupt us, and destroy us spiritually.  By doing these seemingly small things, we will stand victorious.  So, read your scriptures.  Study them.  Go to church.  Pray.  Serve others.  Obey the commandments.

Be a master Energybender!  Have a true heart, true mind, and solid spirit.  No weakness.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Avatar: Waterbending

 It's here!  The final chapter of the Avatar: the Last Airbender Series!  And yes, I had to end with Waterbending.  It's my favorite.

Waterbending is the ability to manipulate water in all it's many forms.  From regular old H2O to plants, clouds, sweat (kinda gross), mud, blood (disturbing and sinister), and basically any liquid you could imagine.  Waterbending can also manipulate external thermal energy and can be used to heal.  The ability is very dependant on the amount of water available, thus many Waterbenders cary water for bending with them on long journeys.

Water is the element of change.  Their fighting style being very flowing and graceful to mirror that of water's movements.  It features slow movements and elegant forms.  They deal with the flow of energy by letting their defense become their offense.  It's defense into powerful attacks and counters.  They do this by turning their opponenets' own forces against them.  That is where it's strength lies.  Instead of just stopping the attack or deflecting it, Waterbenders defensive moves focus on control.  The slow movements, elegant turns, and spins return the momentum of the opponent's attacks with blasts of water.  Waterbenders wait and then turn their target's attacks against them.

Internal life energy chi is what gives a Waterbender their power, connecting it to their emotional state.  This can be a problem if a beginning Waterbender loses their temper.  The bending is intensified, but control is lost.  Ergo, gaining a balance over ones emotions is essential.

Okay, not only is this the coolest style (seriously, my mind is made up), but I love the whole basis of it.  Defense into a powerful offense.  Turning the enemies attacks against themselves.  Not only is that "so totally WICKED!", but it's how I like to look at life.

Satan, the bugger, loves to throw us all sorts of attacks.  He never stops and it never ceases to amaze me at how many tricks he has up his sleeve.  One smart cookie.  But, we can turn his attacks against him.
1"And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."
 2  "And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes."
Whoa ho ho!  Read it again, just to fully grasp the concept (and pure awesomeness of the verses).  All of the trials, sorrows, and everything we face can be for our benefit.  We will beat all our "foe."  Satan's attacks and efforts can be converted into means of strengthening ourselves.  Making his attacks, in a sense, our own.  For example, Satan may tell you not to worry about reading your scriptures.  You don't have to do that every day.  But, as he tells you that, you can turn it into a push to read them.  And, as we all know, reading your scriptures builds up your spiritual strength and helps you fight temptation.

Let us all learn to take the attacks of Satan and use them for our benefit.  Don't let him win the battle.  Keep up your defenses and use his attacks.  We can, and will, triumph!  Be a Waterbender!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Avatar: Earthbending

 Due to recent chaos regarding transfers, this post has taken me longer than previously foreseen.  But, here it is!  Earthbending!

Earthbending is the ability to manipulate earth and rock in whatever form they may be in (even metal! (but only my favorite character Toph can do that)).  Being the element of substance, Earthbenders are very diverse, enduring, persistent, and strong.  The fighting style features rooted stances, strong kicks, and strong punches that bring out the mass power of earth.  As opposed to the other bending arts, Earthbenders maintain a distinct balance between their offense and defense.  This balance of strength and defense is used to overwhelm the opponents.

 A good Earthbender masters what is called "neutral jing."  Neutral jing involves listening, waiting, and attacking when the moment is right.  Thus they endure the enemies attacks until the right moment comes to strike.  Being able to predict the opponents next move is part of the "listening and waiting".  A good Earthbender must also be decisive.  There can be no hesitation or uncertainty when that moment of attack comes.  They must also be determined.  If there is no determination, the earth won't move.

There are a lot of qualities mentioned there that are desirable: determined, decisive, listens, waits, moves when the moments right, enduring, strong, and balanced.  Where to begin!  One that jumps out at me, because it's the one I lack, is decisiveness.  This lack of decisiveness is very apparent every day at about noon, as I stare at the fridge and cupboards deciding what to eat for lunch (my poor companions).  But the one I want to delve into further today is enduring.

What is enduring?  It is lasting, continuing, durable.  In a gospel context it is "1remaining firm in a commitment to be true to the commandments of God despite temptation, opposition, and adversity."  As a missionary, we teach others what it means to "endure" all the time!  It's not easy to endure.  Satan is constantly throwing attacks at us.  He wants us to falter; to slip; to fail.  But, just as the Earthbenders, we can endure the attacks and strike when our time is right.  We can listen to the Holy Ghost and be prepared for the attacks.  (It's coming, are you ready?)  So, be like an Earthbender!  Learn to endure the hard times and come out of the battle on top!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Avatar: Firebending

Next up is Firebending!  (By special request of Elder Trey Williams.The bending style of Fire Nation. 

Firbending is the ability to control and create fire.  No reliance on outside sources of their element to bend, they can create fire using their internal heat source.  But, they can also control flames already existing.  Fire is the element of power; firebending represents energy and life.  This style is very intense, quick, and the most aggressive of all the bending arts.  Simple, direct, and powerful.

To be a successful Firbender, one must have self-restraint (or self-control), breath control, and "inner-fire" (inner-drive).  Firebending isn't merely a matter of directing the element, more controlling the element.  When mastered, this style is not only powerful, but beautiful, comforting, and creative.

What I love love love is the "inner-fire" that a Firbender has to have.  Without that inner-drive they become weak.  There are sooo many times where I find myself leaving things half done or just not done as well as they could be simply because I had no drive to do it.  On the flip side of things, when my "inner-fire" is a-glowin', you can't stop me.  I will do whatever it takes to get the job done or to become the best.

Each of us has great potential.  It's the truth.  Our potential is infinite.  Heavenly Father has given us the chance to become like Him.  Seriously!  How incredible is that?!  But, we have to have the drive to get there.  We need the drive to be obedient to God's commandments.  Drive to learn more about His church.  Drive to be Christlike people.  In essence, we need "inner-fire" to ever even dream of becoming more than what we currently are.  So, become like a Firebender.  Dig deep and build up that "inner-fire!"

Monday, July 11, 2011

Avatar: Airbending

This post has been in the making for some time now.  I love the TV show "Avatar: The Last Airbender."  One of the best cartoon shows that has come out in a LONG time.  The show features "bending", which is the ability to manipulate an element.  Each element has it's respective nation in the "Avatar world" and bending art.  The four elemental Bending Arts are based on the four elements: water, earth, fire and air. Each are manipulated through certain martial art styles which resemble that of the element.  (Hope you're following me thus far.)
Today, I would like to talk about airbending.

Airbending is, obviously, the manipulation of air.  It is a unique style of bending.  There's no limitations as to environmental factors (air is everywhere) and they use their own momentum as the weapon.  Airbenders are fast, agile, and able to deflect or negate opponents attacks.  This style is actually more of a defensive style with lots of circular movements.  The Air Nomads set themselves apart from the world, focusing on spirituality and peace.

Though their numbers were always less than that of the other nations, everyone in the Air nation was able to bend because they kept themselves apart from the worldly problems.  Let me repeat the last part again, but amended a tad: they kept themselves apart from the world.

We weren't sent to earth for riches, fame, or honor.  We are here to "...1prepare to meet God: yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors."  Continually we are told to be "in the world, but not of the world."  For me, the Airbenders understood this concept.

They focused on peace and freedom.  What would it be like to have a world of Airbenders? (aside from the bending, which would be pretty sweet!)  For one thing, we would all be that much more spiritual.  The world would be united in seeking the kingdom of God (2).  Obviously we still wouldn't be perfect, but striving to be perfect would be a whole lot easier!

Maybe it's because I have been up in Northern California for a while, but peace and love should be everywhere!  As Uncle Iroh says "protection and power are overrated. I think you are very wise to choose happiness and love."  Find that inner Airbender.  Set yourself apart from the teachings of the world and build up that spirituality!  As you do so, you will find more peace and you will be happier.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

No More Slugs!

If you are at all disturbed by bugs or slimy type things, I advize you to read another post.  Actually... you should probably still read this one.  Just don't look at the pictures.

Woodland doesn't seem like that long ago, but I guess it was.  One of the awesome things about serving in Woodland (out of the thousands) was the house we lived in.  Yes, we had a house.  All to ourselves.  It was quaint and had all sorts of fun little what-nots around every turn.  Let's just say, when I first got there, all I could think was "NO WAY?!?!"  It seemed just perfect, up until the day our little "friend" came to visit.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Last Crossing

All of us have heard at least something about the Mormon pioneers crossing the plains.  It was a long and treacherous journey.  Many didn't even make it the whole way.  Back in high school I had the opportunity to go on two pioneer reenactment's (commonly known as a Pioneer Trek or just Trek).  We wore the clothes, pulled hand carts, played the games, and read many of the experiences from the actual pioneers.  In short, it was a very fun and humbling experience.

A few weeks ago, two of my younger brothers were able to go on a Pioneer Trek of their own.  From what my mom and dad said in their emails, my brothers loved it!  One of the things they did on their trek was write a poem about their experience.  My mother (the stellar woman that she is) mailed me a copy of my brother Josh's poem.

When I read it, I was amazed!  Maybe it's because he is my brother and I'm a doting older sister, but it really is amazing.  So, here it is.

The Last Crossing
by Joshua Nestman

The sun is beating down with a vigorous zeal,
Attacking the hats that are protecting it's meal.
The sun's fiery breath is filled with hate,

My Bro's!  Joshua (left) Jordan (right)
Giving the saint's a taste of hell's iron-gate.
But when heat turns to cold and ice turns to snow,
The saints start to wonder how far they can go.
Before they collapse from the strength that they lack,
As snow drifts pile up as ice on their back.
An ice filled stream appears in our way,
I can't help but feel that death is at bay.
Waiting to claim us in his cold grasp,
"How can we do this?" to no one I ask.
But I straighten up and I stand tall,
I promise to keep going even if I fall.
I forge across the river leading the others,
Strangers at first but now we are brothers.
I make the bank as I look back pausing,
I see some members who can't make the crossing.
Back and forth I walk and wade,
Helping all those who are in need of aid.
My body is frozen, my hands are shaking,
I can't even feel my legs as they're quaking.
It's done; they're across, I sigh in relief.
I step on the bank and I collapse in a heap.
As I lay cold and dying in the snow-covered sand,
I feel a scarred palm take up my hand.
As my Savior pulls me to my feet,
He says "Life's a journey and yours is complete."

I hope this touches you as much as it touched me.  The more I reflect upon these words, the more I desire to give my all to the Savior.  I love my Savior.  One day, I want to have Him tell me: "Welcome home dear daughter.  You've served me well."

Thank you Joshua for the inspiration you have given me and hopefully many others.  Love you!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Hey Wait....Where'd They Go?

Everyone in my family has played soccer at one point or another growing up.  Usually it is the first sport my parents sign us up for.  This may be because my dad is obsessed with soccer (seriously though, he watches it on the Spanish channel (he doesn't speak Spanish....)), but also because it's just plain awesome.  When my family moved from California to Utah, one of the things my parents made sure to do was to sign us up for soccer.

Game day.  You know what that means; put on the uniform, socks, shin guards, cleats, hair up, war paint, and game face.  Okay, no war paint, but the rest is true.  We loaded into the stereotypical soccer mom van and headed out.  On the way there it was the pep talk: "remember what you practiced this week."  "Doesn't matter whether you win or lose, as long as you have fun."  And all the good parent pre-game talks.  There was an addition to the regular talk.  This was "now, your soccer coach will be taking you home.  So be sure you remind him." 

I'd like to say I remember the game, but I don't.  Cut me a break, I was eight.  But, I think it went well.  After the game we high fived the other team before getting the long awaited treats!  For better treat enjoyment, we had to eat them while playing on the playground equipment.  Every child knows this.  What treat doesn't taste better as your hands touch all the play equipment? 
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