NT 1: Drops of Oil

I decided to continue my blog this year with 86 insights gained from implementing the Church’s new home study curriculum. This year we will study the New Testament as a family.

For daily family scripture study, my husband and I decided to pull single verses of scripture from the recommended readings in each week of study. Our children (ages five and under) really don’t get much out of reading whole chapters at a time. By selecting one or two verses to read, then contextualizing and retelling in our own words, we hope to better engage the kids and begin to inspire a life-long love of the scriptures.

Last night I chose Matthew 25:1-13 (NT) to share with the kids before bed. The parable of the wise and foolish virgins provides a terrific lesson about personal spiritual preparation and testimony growth. I grabbed some pompoms and plastic cups for an object lesson/activity. I read the first verse and then gave my kids the rough outline of the story:

There was going to be a wedding but no one knew when it would be. Everyone wanted to attend the wedding. They knew the wedding could be at any time, even at night. But there were no street lamps! What would the people need to get to the wedding safely?

My oldest daughter chimed in with, “a light!”

I handed out the cups and explained that the people needed to buy oil for their special lamps, but they could only buy a little at a time; they had to collect oil over a long time to be ready for the wedding. My older girls walked back and forth across our living room to collect one pompom at a time for their “lamps.” Only one child got enough “oil” to attend the wedding. I explained the relationship to spiritual growth.

Today we reviewed the scripture verses before school. We decided to keep a jar out and add a pompom every time we do something that fills our spiritual lamps. One pompom for every prayer, attending church, sharing, being kind, keeping the commandments, etc.

I hope this visual will help the lesson sink in as well as encourage my kids to think more about and work on their personal relationships with God.

 

Day 75: Peace on earth

3 Nephi 26:17-21

When I read the Christmas story from Luke 2, I prefer to use the translation of verse 14 that makes a slight change in verbiage from “peace on earth, good will toward men” to “on earth peace to men of good will” (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition). The more I study the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the more I am convinced that lasting peace on earth can only be achieved when every person lives the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is exemplified in The Book of Mormon.

Consider what happened in the Americas following Christ’s ministry among the Nephites and Lamanites. The apostles Jesus ordained traveled around, teaching the people, baptizing them and giving the Gift of the Holy Ghost (v. 17). The Church of Christ was organized (v. 21). The apostles and baptized members of the Church “did do all things even as Jesus had commanded them” (v. 20). The people taught and ministered to each other (v. 19). As a result of the spread of the Gospel, the rise of the Church, the people keeping the commandments and ministering to each other, “they had all things common among them, every man dealing justly, one with another” (v. 19).

This sounds like peace to me! People living in harmony, sharing generously with each other, loving each other, being just to each other. Jesus teaches people to love, to give freely, to be kind, to think the best of others, to work on personal imperfections and be generous with the imperfections of others, to care for the needs of others, to be just and merciful, to tell the truth, to have good will. If everyone lived this way all the time, we would have peace on earth.

So, rather than wish for peace on earth this Christmas, I’m going to try a little harder to live after the manner of peace and teach my children to do the same.

Day 59: Belief and Action

Helaman 3:27-30

I felt so moved this morning as I read the Book of Mormon writer’s (I think it’s Mormon here) reflections on the miracle of the Savior’s saving power.

Thus we may see that the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name.

Yea, thus we see that the gate of heaven is open unto all, even to those who will believe on the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God.

Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked–

And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out.

I’m not going to try to embellish these verses but I do want to point out a few of the phrases that struck me so forcefully.

  • “The Lord is merciful unto ALL” and “the gate of heaven is open to AlL”
  • We must be sincere as we lay claim on God’s mercy
  • Being saved requires that we believe in Jesus Christ and “lay hold upon the word of God,” act on our belief
  • The word of God cuts through the distractions and temptations of this life
  • Our goal in this life should be to become women and men of Christ
  • Laying hold upon the word of God, acting on our belief/faith, will “land our immortal souls” in the kingdom of heaven
  • If we follow the strait and narrow course to the kingdom of God, we will have the peace of dwelling “in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23)

I am so grateful for the Savior Jesus Christ, for His mercy, His love for ALL God’s children, His Atonement, His saving power, and His invitation to follow Him and receive the gift of eternal life.

Day 55: Drop Everything for Your Kids

Alma 57

In my quest to become a better mother I have recognized a terrible weakness in myself that I need to deal with. I tend to obsess over things, including projects I take on, to the extent that I will doggedly pursue my objective regardless of what is going on around me. It’s a great trait for getting things done but it has some unexpected consequences for my children.

Alma 57 taught me a valuable lesson today about the importance of dropping a project to pursue a more pressing need of greater long term value. In Alma 57 the Nephite army sends out a prisoner transport under the direction of Gid to bring Lamanite prisoners from the recently acquired city Cumeni to Zarahemla. While the transport is underway, Nephite spies show up to warn Gid that the Lamanite army will imminently attack the city of Cumeni. The prisoners rebel upon overhearing the report and Gid’s transport is faced with a choice: fulfill their orders to take the prisoners to Zarahemla or act on the warning of the Nephite spies and fulfill the larger objective of maintaining the city Cumeni and keeping the army strong.

In many ways I face a similar choice almost every day with my kids. I will be working on a project or just doing something around the house that needs to be done and one of my kids will come tug on me with an urgent request. I usually keep working on what I’m doing and offer an appeasement, “I’ll come in just a minute,” “I’m almost done with this,” “can you give me a minute?” They usually continue pestering me until I come/listen, but my oldest daughter has started giving up if I don’t stop what I’m doing and pay attention right away. “Never mind,” she says dejectedly. Sometimes they don’t even ask me to look at things or to listen to a story anymore.

Gid’s small group of soldiers reacted to the prisoner rebellion as best they could but instead of doggedly pursuing the few that got away, the group of Nephite soldiers “took [their] march with speed towards the city Cumeni” (Alma 57:34). As a result, “we did arrive in time that we might assist our brethren in preserving the city” (ibid.). Rather than doggedly chase down escaping prisoners to fulfill their initial assignment, they heeded the warning of the spies and returned as quickly as possible to Cumeni where they saved the army and preserved the city.

If I want my children to talk to me (ever), if I want to be part of their daily play and investigation into the wonders of the world, I need to be like Gid’s group and drop what I’m doing. I need to stop letting my projects take priority over my children. They are my number one priority and I need to demonstrate that to them by listening, by playing, by being mentally, emotionally, and physically present. Yes there are going to be boundaries because sometimes an adult needs to not be interrupted but when I’m doing something that really could be put down for a few minutes, I need to walk away from the project and pay attention to my children. None of my projects are worth hurting my children’s feelings or damaging our relationship. It’s time for me to prioritize my children in everything I do because my relationship with them has eternal value and significance.

Day 53: Being a Mother Who Knows

Alma 56

The 2000 sons of the people of Ammon agreed to join the Nephite army and help defend their adopted homeland. They requested that the prophet Helaman lead them (Alma 53:19) and when, miraculously, none were killed in battle, Helaman asked how it could be. The answer? “[T]hey had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it” (Alma 56:47-48).

This is the kind of mother I want to be. A mother who is trustworthy, who inspires confidence in and imparts knowledge of eternal significance to her children. The stripling sons believed their mothers and that reliance on their mothers’ testimonies provided a foundation of faith and space in which they could test their belief and develop their own faith and knowledge. They didn’t doubt that God would save them and their faith in His power was proven many times.

I have spent the last few months learning how to make the daily choices that allow me to become this kind of mother. I have learned that becoming this kind of mother must be intentional; such qualities develop out of the little decisions I make every day when I react to my kids’ behavior, respond to their requests, play with them (or put them off), engage them in learning (both spiritual and secular). I am finally accepting the reality that I have to stop letting less significant things take priority and pull me in different directions. I need to be intentional and proactive to become a mother who knows, whose children never doubt their “mothers knew.”

For further reading on this topic, check out Julie B. Beck’s talk “Mothers Who Know” from October 2007 General Conference.

Day 52: Taught to Keep the Commandments of God

Alma 53:17-21

By way of follow up, my husband and I began a Family Home Evening lesson series on the commandments. I had mentioned in a previous post that I felt the need to do this. So far it’s going well! We kicked off the series with a lesson activity discussing life and the many choices we get to make on a daily basis. I presented our family with a plate of bite size pieces of several varieties of chocolate. Scattered amongst the chocolate pieces were toothpick flags, each representing a choice. I wrote a scenario on one side of the flag and once someone had read the scenario and provided a response, s/he flipped the flag to read a commandment-oriented statement. One flag read, “It’s Sunday and a friend invites you to go to the movies.” The reverse side paraphrased the commandments to keep the Sabbath Day holy. My kids really enjoyed the hands-on experience (and now they want chocolate every Family Home Evening). We have continued with “love the Lord thy God” and “love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:37-39, NT). I struggle a little with making the lessons completely kid-friendly, but I really want to follow through on this prompting.

In case I was feeling a little discouraged, the perfect motivation popped up in my Book of Mormon reading. I’m in the midst of the war chapters of Alma and 2000 young men (sons of the people of Ammon) have joined the Nephite army to help “fight for liberty” and “to protect the land” (Alma 53:17). Despite being young, inexperienced, and untrained as soldiers, “they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity…. [T]hey were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted…. [T]hey were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God…” (Alma 53:20-21, emphasis added). This is what I want for my children! If I persevere, continue teaching them the commandments, and provide them with opportunities to grow their faith and personal testimonies, then they, too, will become valiant, courageous, strong, true, trustworthy, honest.

Day 27: The Ten Commandments

Mosiah 12-13

It is little wonder to me that Abinadi, when questioned by the priests of Noah, began to teach them the Ten Commandments. It was a sharp rebuke for the priests who claimed to represent God, but did not keep His commandments. The Ten Commandments provide the foundation for laws across the world and they are fundamental to maintaining peace throughout the world. The Book of Mormon teaches that when a nation begins to transgress God’s commandments, it will eventually fall (e.g. Omni 1, BoM).

Thoughts of how I can be a better mother and what I should do to create more spiritual direction for our family have been weighing on my mind. The other day as I was praying, the Spirit suggested that we teach our kids the Ten Commandments.

We talk a lot in our home and at church about “keeping the commandments.” As adults we know what that means but our kids don’t. They’re at the beginning of their mortal experience. To say repeatedly, “keep the commandments,” becomes nebulous unless you actually identify what they are. Kids need repetition to know what the commandments are, learn them by heart (Mosiah 13:11), understand what they mean, and actually live them. By way of reminder for us all, the Ten Commandments are:

  • Thou shalt have no other God before me (Mosiah 12:35)
  • Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image; Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them (Mosiah 13:12-13)
  • Thou shalt no take the name of the Lord thy God in vain (Mosiah 13:15)
  • Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy (Mosiah 13:16
  • Honor thy father and thy mother (Mosiah 13:20)
  • Thou shalt not kill (Mosiah 13:21)
  • Thou shalt not commit adultery (Mosiah 13:22)
  • Thou shalt not steal (Mosiah 13:22)
  • Thou shalt not bear false witness (Mosiah 13:23)
  • Thou shalt not covet (Mosiah 13:24)

(I have quoted from the Book of Mormon but you can also review the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, Old Testament )

Now my challenge is to come up with age-appropriate lessons for each commandment. If you have any ideas, feel free to comment here or use my contact form. Thanks in advance!

Day 9: Vows and Promises

1 Nephi 21

It’s no wonder Nephi loved these chapters from Isaiah. 1 Nephi 21/Isaiah 49 is chock full of the goodness of God. He is strong (v. 5); He is faithful (v. 7); He hears us, helps us, and preserves us (v. 8); He is merciful and will lead us to sustenance (v. 10); He comforts us (v. 13); He will not forget us (v. 15); He has graven us on the palms of His hands (v. 16); He will make us victorious over our enemies (v. 17). These tremendous promises by God to do all these things for us, His children, are confirmed in verse 18. God uses the phrasing of a vow or oath to formalize these promised blessings, “as I live, saith the Lord.” Because God is eternal, to swear by His life is like the ultimate promise. And He always keeps His promises.

This makes me want to do a better job keeping my word and teach my children how to keep promises. I’m going to review Sister Joy D. Jones’s talk “A Sin-Resistant Generation” from April 2017 General Conference.