Friday, December 20, 2013

Our New Family Tradition...Build Your Own Nativity

We created a new family tradition tonight!  

It was a sweet, simple, yet powerful and touching way to celebrate Jesus. 

We got the idea from the amazing Meg Johnson. Check out Meg's page for simple instructions. 

Meg gives a quote from church leaders about each item in the nativity. Each person silently reads their quote and then thinks of a household item to represent their person or item. 

Then you take turns reading your quote and sharing your thoughts and feelings about why you chose your item. It was insightful and sweet to see what each person chose and why. 

Grace had three girlfriends over for the afternoon and evening. They had a do-each-other's-hair day. They'll probably not be thrilled with me when they see that I posted this picture online...  But they're such cute girls!  

 My four favorite males on the planet.

One of my favorite males snuggling with his Mama.  I closed the activity with my testimony of Jesus. I love celebrating Him. I hope you do too. 

I invite you to try this fun tradition yourself!  I hope your family likes it as much as we did. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Day 17 of Book of Mormon Challenge... Five Questions to Ask Yourself

1. Do I listen to the temptation not to pray...or not to read my scriptures for that matter? (See 2 Nephi 32:8-9)

Satan knows I won’t fall for blatant temptations like “Never read your scriptures again for the rest of your life – in fact, just toss them in the trash.”  So does he give up?  Of course not. 

  • “Check email first, then get distracted looking at cute pictures of your grand baby on Facebook, and then other people's posts."  
  • "Put in a batch of laundry first, then get distracted cleaning the bathroom."
  • "Grab a snack first, and then forget you were going to read scriptures.”  
Can you tell I have plenty of personal experience with this one?  

Will I give up?  Never. 

2. Am I planting “testimony time bombs” in my children like Jacob planted in his son Enos? (Enos 1:3) 

It appears that Enos hadn’t been valiant in his faith for a time, but alone on a hunting trip his father’s words about eternal life and the joy of living the gospel sunk deep into his heart. In other words his father’s seeds sprouted and surfaced after being planted long before. The law of the harvest still works, even if the harvest comes later than expected. You could call this the law of the late harvest, which is pretty much describes parenting to a tee.

3. What life lessons do I learn from seeing how God delivered two groups of good people from bondage, after letting them wait a while? (Mosiah 21-22, 24)

My opinion is that God doesn’t want us to suffer in vain. He wants our suffering to give us the lessons, growth, and Christlike character traits the trial is meant to give us. So one thing I like to pray for during a trial is that I can gain the growth, lessons, and character the trial is meant to give me. And that when it is His will, He can help me move beyond the trial.  I felt this same flavor during both the stories of deliverance of King Limhi with Ammon (Mosiah 21-22) and of Alma (Mosiah 24). 

Sometimes God chooses to help us by lightening our load or strengthening our backs to carry the load, rather than removing the load least for a while. Ever lifted weights? Notice they made you stronger? 

Another reason I think God waits to deliver people is so we see His power in an unmistakable way. That we can’t take credit for the deliverance ourselves.  

My son had a mini experience with this yesterday. He saved up a bunch of money and recently bought himself a Kindle. Then this sweet eleven-year-old lost it. After much discouragement and searching the house from top to bottom, we said one more prayer. I asked if he had searched the couch cushions yet. Not every cushion, said he. Voila, there it was! In my opinion, had my son looked and found it himself right away, he would have missed a faith-building experience of God showing His power. God is the one who prompted me where to look for the lost item. God knows where everything is...even little Kindles. He sure is smart. 

4. Do I realize the power of a parent’s faith-filled prayers? Alma did. (Mosiah 27:14) 

Alma's son was being a stinker, even if he was named after his father.  Finally, on one of his rampages to persecute the church with his buddies, an angel interrupted their plans.  “Your dad prayed me here,” the angel said in so many words.  An angel came to answer a father’s faith-filled prayer, to convince Alma the younger about God.  And it worked. Not only did Alma stop persecuting the church, he became an extraordinary leader for the government and the church. Do I pray with Alma-like faith over each of my children?  I want to more often. 

5. Do I “touch not the unclean thing?” (Alma 5:57) 

If a wolf tries to come into my little flock and devour my little sheep, do I keep watch, drive him out, and destroy him? (Alma 5:59.) Do I study the enemy’s plans and plots so I know how to prevent and defend the enemy from getting my family? (Alma 2:21.)  

I’ve been reading 1776 by David McCullough lately. An interesting parallel to these verses is how General George Washington was intensely interested in gathering intelligence about the enemy’s plans. British General Howe seemed not to care much about gathering intelligence about his enemy.  Guess who won that war? With nothing short of miracles from God, for sure.  I’m following Washington’s example. 

What unclean things or wolves or enemy’s plans do I need to be aware of and protect my family from?  The media is a big one. Although there are some great things available, most media is an enemy. Here are a couple reasons why.

First, "Satan’s greatest threat today is to destroy the family, and to make a mockery of the law of chastity and the sanctity of the marriage covenant." 

A prophet of God said that -- Harold B. Lee, to be exact, in 1972. Question: Do you think Satan uses the media as one of his most powerful tools to accomplish his goal?  Do you think the media is worse today than it was in 1972? 

Second, the media is a powerful teacher, and people often deny they're being taught by it. 

I want to teach my children to follow God, love family, respect others, live honestly and morally, invest in education, use wholesome language, and serve others.  I teach them these values and so does my church. But TV generally teaches all the opposite messages. Most media teaches not to follow God, to disrespect family and others, to lie and cheat, to break the law of chastity, to pursue entertainment, use vulgarity and violence, and to be self-centered. These themes are even seen in many “family friendly” shows, if you watch for them.  This is why my family hardly ever watches TV and why we’re really picky about movies.  Great, uplifting, wholesome ones are really worth watching. The rest just aren’t. 

Third, listen to this scripture.

"Thou shalt not ... commit adultery, nor kill, nor do anything like unto it." (Doctrine & Covenants 59:6).  I know many, many people who would never consider actually killing or committing adultery, but they do things "like unto them" every single day. They watch others do those things. They fill their minds and hearts with things "like unto" adultery and killing. That's not to mention "like unto" breaking all the other ten commandments like taking God's name in vain, stealing, dishonoring parents, having other gods of materialism, and so on. 

Repeated exposure makes things seem more normal. Ask anyone who has committed adultery or been violent to someone if they have repeatedly watched others do those actions. 

Fourth, here is our church’s standard. 

“Do not attend, view, or participate in anything that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in anything that presents immorality or violence as acceptable. Have the courage to walk out of a movie, change your music, or turn off a computer, television, or mobile device if what you see or hear drives away the Spirit.” (For the Strength of Youth, bold added) 

Another great standard is this question: 

“If Jesus were standing next to me, would I watch, listen, read that?” 

Nuff said. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Day Nine of Book of Mormon Challenge... It's all about Christ

This is me this morning. I've found that a combination of audio and reading keep 
me going at a pretty good pace. I need help pacing when I'm reading 20 pages a day! My usual pace for scriptures is s.l.o.w.  

I can't seem to think without a pen in my hand, even though I'm using my 14-year-old Book of Mormon, well beloved and well marked with years of colors, notes, stickers, and inserts. I've thought of buying a new set (mine doesn't have the current pictures or maps and the backside of the covers are flaking off) but I love them too much. Sigh...

Here are three more patterns I've noticed (continued from part one)...

4. The Book of Mormon is All About Christ 

Anyone who thinks Mormons aren't Christians must not have read the Book of Mormon...

  • Jacob "labored diligently among [his] people that [he] might persuade them to come unto Christ..." (Jacob 1:7). 
  • "We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins" (2 Nephi 25:26). What more can I say?
  • Christ is referred to 48 times in the second chapter of 2 Nephi. THAT'S 48 TIMES. IN ONE CHAPTER. Yes, we are Christians. Read the whole book and then try to convince me otherwise. 
  • Nephi's writing and teaching was aimed at one thing: "to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God..." (2 Nephi 25:23). 
  • Lehi's only objective was the "everlasting welfare of [his posterity's] souls" (2 Nephi 2:30). 
  • The fullness of Nephi's intent is to "persuade men to come unto...God...and be saved" (1 Nephi 6:4). 
  • Jacob's intent in writing was for later people to "know that [they] knew of Christ and had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming..." (Jacob 4:4). 

Question to self: 

Is the fullness of my intent, my mission, my purpose in life, to bring souls to Christ? Like these wonderful prophets from ancient America? I hope it is.  What am I doing with my time, efforts, thoughts, and actions to bring souls to Christ, starting with myself and my family, and reaching outward from there? 

5. What does my soul delight in? 

These passages are so dear. Does my soul delight in these things?

  • Nephi delights in teaching his people the truth of the coming of Christ (2 Nephi 11:4). 
  • His soul delights in plainness (which I think means understanding) of the doctrine of Christ (2 Nephi 31:2-3).
  • He delights in the words of Isaiah because Isaiah prophesied of the Redeemer (2 Nephi 11:2).
  • Nephi's soul also delights in the covenants God made with Abraham, and in the Lord's grace, justice, power, mercy, and eternal plan. In teaching his people that Christ is the source of their salvation (2 Nephi 11:5-6).

Question to self: 

How much does my soul delight in the fact that Jesus Christ, my Redeemer and Savior, came to earth?  That He is the source of my hope and salvation? How much does my soul delight when I can understand Christ's teachings, plan, and words for me? 

6. What do I feast on? 

  • Do I "feast upon the words of Christ [knowing that] the words of Christ will tell [me] all things [that I] should do?" (2 Nephi 32:3)
  • Do I "receive the Holy Ghost [knowing that] it will show unto [me] all things what [I] should do?" (2 Nephi 32:5) 
  • Do I feast upon God's love? (Jacob 3:2)
  • By feasting on the word of Christ, do I "press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men?" (2 Nephi 31:20)

Question to self: 

Am I daily feasting on Christ's words, God's love, and receiving the Holy Ghost?  Am I following Christ's words and the Holy Ghost in my thoughts, words, and actions?  Am I filled with hope and press forward with a heart full of love?  

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Day 4 of my Book of Mormon challenge. Some patterns I've been noticing...

1) Do I react to trials more like Nephi or Laman and Lemuel?

The book of First Nephi is full of examples of how people react to trials when they have the Lord's Spirit with them (Nephi) and when people don't (Laman and Lemuel).  What are the patterns of both parties?  

  • Lord commands them to return to Jerusalem to get the brass plates. First two attempts fail. How do both parties react?
  • In the wilderness the last bow breaks so they can't get food. How do both react? 
  • Lord commands Nephi to build a ship, which I assume he has never done before. How do both react? 

2) If I need a spiritual pep talk, Nephi shows me how.  

Nephi is awesome. I am seriously excited to meet him in heaven. I love the spiritual pep talks he gives his brothers. These are the same pattern of pep talks I've given myself and my family many times when we've needed to boost our faith. Because God has helped our ancestors, scripture people, and us do seemingly impossible things in the past, He can help us again. I've gained much strength from listing our past miracles just like Nephi did. What patterns do you notice in these awesome pep talks? 

  • 1 Nephi 3:15-21
  • 1 Nephi 4:1-3
  • 1 Nephi 7:8-15 
  • 1 Nephi 17:23-51

3) If God commands it, He'll help me do it. 

Some places you'll find this promise: 

  • 1 Nephi 3:7 
  • 1 Nephi 4:1
  • 1 Nephi 17:3
  • 1 Nephi 17:13
  • 1 Nephi 17:50 
When have you seen God command you, either through a formal commandment, or through church leaders or a prompting of the Spirit, and He has made a way for you to obey it?  Making a list of these times is an awesome spiritual pep talk (see item number 2).  

Who wants to join me in a 28-day Book of Mormon challenge?

(I posted this on my Facebook page on December 3, 2013.) 

My son's seminary teacher (also our dear friend, Bruce-Kaziah Chang) challenged his class to read the entire Book of Mormon in the month of December. 

I did the math and it's about 18 pages a day for 30 days. I invited a few friends to join me and we're off to a good start! 

I know December is a nutty month for a mom to take on a challenge like this, but I prayed about it and it felt right! If you start tomorrow, you could just do the math to see how many pages a day it would take to finish by the end of the year. My friend said it's only taking her 40 minutes a day, but it's taking me much longer because I get so much more from it when I take notes and journal about things.

Some of my favorite verses this time around so far: 1 Nephi 4:6 and 1 Nephi 6:4. Also, 1 Nephi 16:18-24 is an awesome contrast of how a person reacts to trials if they have God's spirit with them or if they don't.

My girlfriends and I are going out to lunch on New Year's day to share what we've learned and the blessings we've noticed. I am writing a question each day and then watching for clues to the answer as I read, and writing my thoughts down afterward. It's amazing how God can answer your personal questions and problems through the scriptures and His Spirit!