Thursday, September 27, 2012

Don't be silent observers

I love this article , particularly about being active participants in defending religious and moral freedom.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

repentance talk

When we bought a house this summer, we changed wards.  After our summer vacation, they finally caught up with us and asked us to speak in church.  Alex was assigned to speak on virtue and I got to preach repentance.  I thought I'd go ahead and share, at least what I prepared.  I'm not sure if I delivered it just the way I prepared it.  I had asked my family for their thoughts.  They might see some of their ideas incorporated in.  I had similar thoughts already, but I always appreciate their input.  Thanks family!  (I also have to note that I have shared my childhood repentance story before.  I think it gets better every time... Dad, you might have to correct me on any details that I might have remembered differently.  :)  Do you remember how old I was?


I have the opportunity to preach repentance to you today, as I was assigned to speak on repentance. I gave a talk a few years ago on repentance. I’m starting to wonder if the repetition means I need to put more effort into repentance… or if I have some really good things to share about repentance. Hopefully we can both learn more about repentance.

We were reminded recently that most of the important lessons in life are learned in the home. I want to share my first lesson on repentance, which I learned from my dad. While I normally wouldn’t share past faults, I think this was an early lesson that helped shape who I am. We have defining moments. This is one of those lessons that I will always remember. Besides, I was only about 6 or 7 years old (I was washed clean at baptism...)
  My dad was a runner, and he also wanted his kids to be runners. So my dad, my brother, and I got up early in the morning to go running. We would run about 2 or 3 miles. We usually ran the same route and just tried to improve our time. My dad was usually right there beside us, but there was a time when he had to go in early for work. Not wanting us to sacrifice being physically fit, he decided we could go on our own. He also gave us an allowance for running, to increase our motivation. I didn’t think much about it then, but now I realize how much trust my dad had in us, as 6 and 8 year olds to do this on our own. But we knew the route and we did pretty well on our own, for a while. Then we started to get lazy and we realized that no one was watching us, and no one would know if we actually ran or not. We had a stop watch, so we started going out a short ways from our house, and then playing around until it was time to go back. We pretended that we were tired and we lied to our dad when he later asked us about our running. We thought it was pretty great to get paid money for playing! But then one morning he caught us cheating… We got in big trouble. We lost our allowance, but what was worse was my dad made us go confess to the bishop what we had done. It was really hard to tell the bishop that we had lied and cheated. I think what was also painful was knowing how disappointed my dad was and knowing he didn’t trust us anymore. We had to work to gain that trust back. This lesson on repentance really shaped my view on choosing the right and has helped me become very honest in everything I do. I can also see now how the relationship between me and my dad is like our relationship with our Father in Heaven. When we sin, our Father in Heaven is also disappointed, and we have to work to regain His trust in us.

  In the October 2009 General Conference, Elder Neil Andersen spoke on the healing power of repentance. He says, “When we sin, we turn away from God. When we repent, we turn back toward God. The invitation to repent is rarely a voice of chastisement but rather a loving appeal to turn around and to ‘re-turn’ toward God. It is the beckoning of a loving Father and His Only Begotten Son to be more than we are, to reach up to a higher way of life, to change, and to feel the happiness of keeping the commandments.” I am grateful that God has such a loving approach in inviting us to come unto Him. As parents, I think we are sometimes much more harsh with our children in demanding a change of behavior. Elder Andersen goes on to say that for most people, “repentance is more a journey than a one-time event.” In the process of repentance as turning to God, I was thinking about how we may often turn half-way or little by little. We may make changes which put us on a different or better path than the one we were on, but maybe not quite the path directly to God. But that’s okay, as long as we’re continually striving to do better, re-adjusting our focus. Elder Andersen says, “While for some the process of repentance can happen dramatically, as it did for Alma, this is more the exception than the rule. Most of us move step by step toward more goodness.”  We have to become converted to daily repentance, trying to put aside our pride and submit to the Lord's will.  We repent as we follow the Savior’s example in doing “not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39).   When we hear the Lord's voice, through the Holy Ghost, we will know what changes to make.  We are able to hear the Lord's voice through the scriptures or listening to the words of prophets and apostles.  Many of the changes in our family have come as a result of inspired words from church leaders in general conference and other meetings. 

 So the question came to my mind – How are we teaching repentance in our family? What are we doing to draw us closer to God? What things draw us away? I’m not going to share the things that we have a lot more work to do, but I would like to share some of the changes we have made that have turned us closer to God. One of the first things that comes to mind is our efforts in family prayer and scripture study.  Besides just reading out of the picture scripture book at night, we added a morning “devotional” of scriptures, prayer, and singing a primary song or hymn, followed by a simple family cheer. We are trying to kneel more as we pray to show humility.

We are also working to change our sacrament meeting behavior (which is always a struggle). Don’t judge us for where we are – we have come a long way already. We realized not too long ago that we weren’t creating an environment for reverent worship. We used to bring snacks and toys for each of the boys. We started noticing that as soon as we sat down, Owen would ask for fruit snacks. We had trained him to think that sacrament meeting was snack time. While I won’t fault you or judge you for bringing snacks, we decided to only bring water. We also limited our toys to the younger ones, and the older boys only get to bring a notebook and pencil. 

We also have tried to change our Sabbath observance at home as well – watching only church videos on Sunday, staying in our church clothes all day, and adding journal writing to our Sunday activities.

 We have chosen not to have cable TV in our home.

We have made monthly temple attendance a priority.

  These are a few of the things we have done to change our habits, but of course true repentance involves a change of heart, not just behavior.  Quote that says, “The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and they take themselves out of the slums. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.” As we put our faith in Christ and try to become like Him, we can truly change our desires. Mosiah 5:2 talks about this change, “…that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” Can we get to this point? It is possible through the power of the Atonement. Miracles occur as we draw unto the Savior and to our Heavenly Father.  Repentance has the power to make us clean and heal our souls. 

As we read the scriptures, we see the pride cycle - people turning away from God and then being humbled and turning back to God.  We also see how often the scriptures talk about the arms of mercy always open, ready and inviting us to come to Him.  Even when we turn away, God never does.  His arms of mercy are always open.  

Let me go back to my childhood experience.  One of the consequences of our bad choices was NOT to quit running.  We kept running - we just had to make more sacrifices.  I remember getting up sometimes at 5:00am, running in the dark, with only the streetlights to see.  How sad it would have been if our choices had triggered an end to our running!  The lessons I learned from our early morning runs about discipline, consistency, hard work, and striving to beat my personal record has carried over into other areas in my life.  Our bad choices weren't the end of the journey, just a small obstacle that required some sacrifice.  We all know friends and family (or maybe ourselves) who have made some really poor choices.  Some did repent and turn to God and some did not.  There isn't anything much sweeter than to see one of these individuals who did repent fully experiencing the blessings of the gospel again.  What a blessing the Atonement is in our lives, the power to change and heal, and bring us back into the arms of our loving Father in Heaven! 

  “Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me” (3 Ne. 9:13–14).

I'm grateful for the gift of repentance and the peace and power of the Holy Ghost working in us.  I have seen the hand of the Lord in my life many times, and I am thankful for His mercy and love. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Teaching the value of work

We tried to get back into our chore routine again today.  The boys had the summer off and time to adjust to school.  Now I'm introducing the routine again.  IT'S A LOT OF WORK.  I forgot how hard it is to supervise the chores and keep everyone on task and semi-on schedule.  It may very well be easier to just do the work by myself.  But that doesn't help teach the value of work and discipline, does it?  It will get better.  I'm sure it will be worth it.

We are already enjoying some of the fruits of our labors from last year's efforts in some areas.  We encouraged Nathan & Jared to get their own breakfast in the morning (cereal, except a couple of mornings where we have eggs or pancakes) and then to make their own lunch for school.  It was such a pain last year to get them to be independent.  Jared still needs more prodding in making his lunch, but Nathan is getting pretty good at it.  I have to peek and make sure they're packing enough things, like a sandwich, and not just pretzels and pudding.  But they're getting the hang of it.  They don't need me much anymore!  They can get up and get dressed, eat breakfast, make their lunch, and walk to school on their own.  I am hoping that the chores and homework and routine will become more natural as well.  It will take time, but I'm determined to make these boys (and girl) into responsible, independent people who know the value of work!  (I think our country could use a few more people like that...)

Here's a peek at our schedule for this afternoon and evening:

3:15-3:30.   Unpack and snack
3:30-4:00.    Homework
4:00-5:15.   Free time
5:15-6:00.    Dinner and clean-up (dishes, table, floor)
6:00-7:15.    Family home evening
7:15-8:00.    Bedtime routine (including a 10 minute toy pick-up)

Tomorrow will be about the same, but no family home evening and extra chores from 4:00-4:30 (putting away laundry and cleaning the bathrooms).

We'll see how this goes!  We're not doing fall soccer, so that helps.

What works well for you?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

No pictures.

Well, I think our laptop gave out.  It won't turn on anymore.  So, no pictures until we get a new one.  Our I-pad doesn't have a USB port.  Luckily I think we had downloaded all of our pictures and important stuff to an external hard drive, so I don't think we lost anything.  Our HP laptop didn't last very long.  We had problems with the battery and the fan, the internal wireless broke, the sound would come and go, and the DVD/CD drive broke.  Any recommendations for another laptop?

Oh, and no Skype for a little while too, grandparents.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

back to life...

...back to reality?  We were happy to be home and not traveling anymore.  We went to our local beach, enjoying the beautiful weather.  Do we really live here?  We ask ourselves that question a lot.

And that's it for our summer travels!  I'm finally all caught up.