Friday, January 13, 2023

Come Follow Me January 9-15 Matthew 2; Luke 2 Part 1

I need a way to really dig into Come Follow Me. I used to blog when I studied the scriptures, and when blogging kind of fell out of favor (because now we have all this video/audio content) I kind of stopped blogging regularly. There was also the complication of the tragic end of my marriage, my remarriage to a man who gave me three extra kiddos, and then raising all those kids. Ha ha. Well, things have slowed down, and now I am going to really get back to blogging.

From the day of his birth, it was clear that Jesus was no ordinary child. It wasn't just the new star in the heavens of the joyous angelic proclamation that made Jesus' infancy remarkable. It was also the fact that such a variety of faithful people - from different nations, professions, and backgrounds - felt immediately drawn to Him.

Isn't this so remarkable? That so many people from so many different backgrounds came unto Him. Will I be drawn to Christ when He comes again? Am I drawn to Him now?  

The Nativity story is such a familiar story, sometimes it looses its wonder. I am trying to remember to never lose my sense of wonder, as the song goes. I want to find wonder in all the familiarity of the world. 

Luke 2:1-7

Jesus Christ was born in humble circumstances.

What is the significance of the Savior being born in humble circumstances? The scriptures talk about how the Savior knew exactly how to succor us, because of his experiences. We tend to have more empathy for people when we have similar experiences as them. Beyond just the idea of empathy and succoring, the prophets of old prophesied that the Savior would be born in the circumstances in which He was born.

The Come Follow Me manual suggests "ponder what [the Luke 2:1-7] account of His birth teaches you about Him. Try to identify details or insights in this story that you hadn't noticed before." Here goes:

  • It had been prophesied that the Savior would be born in Bethlehem. The census happened at just the right time for Joseph to be able to take Mary to Bethlehem. Heavenly Father allow things to happen at just the right time, in just the right order for the Savior to be born in Bethlehem.
  • I often think about how Joseph and Mary decided that Mary should go to Bethlehem. I doubt Joseph was required to take Mary. He probably could have left her home to have the baby, but instead, they both went. I imagine that Mary and Joseph were not ignorant of the prophecies of the Savior's birth. When the decree went out to be taxed, they were likely not surprised that they would be going to Bethlehem so near to Mary's delivery. Maybe they had a little conversation and said "Look, God said that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. Let's pack the donkey and get ready to have this baby in Bethlehem." In fact, I doubt that the birth in Bethlehem was unexpected. They probably knew it would happen, and likely carried provisions for the birth, and possibly event traveled with midwives or other birth attendants.
How does noticing these things affect your feelings toward Him?
It is comforting to know that He knew. That He knew he would be coming to a lowly, humble stable. He knew, and He wanted to do it. He was willing to do it to fulfill the prophesies, and to better understand how to succor his people.

Stay tuned for Part 2 (and probably Part 3, etc) of my Come Follow Me study this week!

Thursday, October 27, 2022

I Will Walk with Jesus - harmony part and C instrument obbligato

 I wrote this for my family to sing/play for our Primary program in November. We have a tiny Primary, so our ward typically has families participate in the Primary program. Feel free to use this arrangement. I only ask that you do not sell it.

To listen, CLICK HERE.

For the score and parts CLICK HERE.

Please leave a comment and let me know how you liked it, or if you have any feedback!

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

The Lost Women of the Old Testament (June 13-19)

 The title is a little tongue-in-cheek. The women are there. Just not in the Come Follow Me curriculum. But that's okay! Because it isn't the end-all-be-all of gospel study. It is meant to be a unifying curriculum, which is awesome, but sometimes we need a little more. So here we go.

Tonight I am going to be studying:

  • Phinehas's Wife
  • Michal
Phinehas's Wife
When I skimmed the scriptures at the beginning of Heather's chapter on his particular woman, I knew I had zero context for the story, so I headed over to 1 Samuel 4 to figure out what was going on when this woman was mentioned. Turns out the Israelites were at war with the Philistines, and the Philistines won and captured the ark of the covenant (you know, that super important sacred symbol from the tabernacle that represents the throne of God? Yeah, the same one). Eli (the priest who raised Samuel the boy prophet) and his sons die (in fulfillment of a prophecy from a few chapters previous), and then Phinehas's wife dies in childbirth. (Phinehas is one of the sons of Eli). This is a pretty tragic story, but we can learn a lot from it.

When Phinehas's wife dies in childbirth, she names her son "Ichabod" or "Where is the glory?" because she is so weighed down by the grief of her husband's and father-in-law's deaths, and the capture of the ark of the covenant. This was a really rocky time for the Israelites, and I can imagine birthing a child during this madness was probably a little overwhelming. Heather points out that not too far in the future, if Phinehas's wife hadn't died in childbirth, she would have seen the great prophet Samuel, King David, King Solomon, and the beautiful temple being built.

Heather points out "We can trust that when the Lord begins a 'birthing' in our life, when we feel the pangs of travail in our minds, our souls, and our bodies, that there will also one day be a deliverance - a day when our pain will cease, our souls will rejoice, and we will hold new life in our arms." I recently bore my testimony about this concept. I have been through some really dark times in the past several years. The scripture that has kept me going has been Psalms 30:5 "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."  I know that is true - even if the joy doesn't come in this life, it will come. Because of the atonement of Jesus Christ joy will always come. His sacrifice swallows up all suffering and pain. He is the true Comforter.

President Spencer W. Kimball wisely taught, "If we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors." There has to be opposition in this life. It is what we chose in the pre-existence. We knew there would be pain. I don't know that we fully understood what that meant, but we chose it. We wanted to be like our Father and Mother in heaven and we knew that we would have to endure suffering to obtain that.

This is a fascinating story that I honestly had never heard before. Michal was the first wife of David, before he was king. It sounds like she was young and probably pretty smitten with David, and even helped him escape from her father, Saul, who wanted to kill him (David). However, once David escaped it appears that he disappeared and never really came back for Michal. So Saul married Michal to another man, and it appears that she lived happily with her second husband. But then David came back as the king, and ordered Michal to come back to be his wife.

Thinking about what that might feel like gives me all sorts of feelings. To think your husband was dead, or had abandoned you, then find happiness with another marriage, and then have that husband come back as a king and order you to move in with him again. I would feel pretty used and abused. It sounds like they didn't have a good relationship when she came to live with him as his queen. I can't really blame her. What a rough situation!


I wanted to study a few more women tonight, but it's getting late, so I'll probably study them this weekend (Abigail and Ahinoam of Jezreel).

Come Follow Me and Women

 Some friends and started the year getting together and discussing the women in the Old Testament as we followed the Come Follow Me curriculum each week. Things got busy for some of us (me) and the group kind of dissolved, but we are trying to resurrect it. They got together tonight, but unfortunately I wasn't able to make it because I am getting ready to leave for Girls Camp tomorrow and all my clothes are in the wash. A silly excuse, I know, but to make up for it, while the laundry was running, I went through Heather's book Walking with the Women in the Old Testament and tried to correlate all the women in her book with the Come Follow Me curriculum. I was surprised to find that the majority of the scriptures that mention women in the Old Testament have been completed left out of the Come Follow Me curriculum. As I skimmed over those chapters, though, it was pretty clear why. Many of the verses don't mention much about the women, and almost all of the stories are pretty tragic, or deal with some seriously heavy topics (incest, dying in childbirth, etc). Not exactly stuff you want to bring up in Sunday School.

But for us women, I think talking about these circumstances and the women who endured them is incredibly valuable, so I made a schedule so we can study them. Some of them I was able to match up with the Come Follow Me curriculum, but the majority are in books that we have already covered at this point in Come Follow Me, so we'll have to play catch up later.

Because I am not with my friends, I decided I would type out my thoughts about the women that fit with Come Follow Me this week. But I think I'll do it in another post, so look for that one to show up tomorrow (if anyone is even still reading this blog - ha ha ha. I highly doubt it. Although I do plan to write more on here. I've forgotten how much I love writing. Maybe some day I will write a book.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words to Each Other

 Today I had my family write an essay about the hymn, Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words. They said I had to do the essay as well.

I sat with my 7 year old and talked through the meaning of the lyrics with him. I have always loved this hymn, but the words area so beautiful and I was reminded of that today.

This hymn really describes how words can be magic - literal magic. Kind words can give courage and hope, and bring happiness. On the other hand, disparaging words and harsh tones can stir up anger and hate, as we have seen all too much in our society. True followers of Christ will desire to use kind words that can soften hearts and awake souls to good cheer! In Proverbs 15:1 we read, "A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger." 

I love the imagery in this hymn, and I used that with my 7 year old. We closed our eyes and imagined the "warblings of birds on the heather" and felt the happiness and cheer when we heard those little birds. We closed our eyes and imagined the "sunbeams of morn on the mountains" and felt the warmth of the morning rays of sun and the beauty of the mountains. We closed our eyes and listened to the "murmur of cool, pleasant fountains" as the water fell, and felt peace in our hearts and minds. If we can evoke those kinds of feelings with something as simple as kind words, why wouldn't we always speak kind words?

Further, kind words last much longer than the moment they are uttered. Because those kind words produce such rich and powerful emotions, "the kind words we give shall in memory live and sunshine forever impart." Those we share kind words with will remember those kind words forever, and maybe years later, when we aren't around, they will need encouragement, peace, and cheer, and they might hear the kind words we spoke in those moments, bringing them the sunshine anew from the time we spoke those kind words. 

Sometimes it can be difficult to use kind words. We may be impatient, tired, hungry, stressed, any number of negative things can be going on in our own lives. It is in these difficult moments that we must take a step back - even put ourselves in timeout (I put myself in timeout quite frequently) and ask our Father in Heaven to soften our hearts. I am not as good as I should be about stopping myself before I use grievous words, but I am making a commitment today to use kinder words. I want the words that last in my children's minds and hearts to be the kind ones I speak. Sometimes when I am impatient or stressed I am harsh. Sometimes when my children are stubborn and/or disrespectful, the angry words bubble out. When I am anxious or worried, I also have a hard time with kind words. 

I believe in the power of prayer, and so today and for the rest of the week I am going to make a commitment to pray for kind words - that I will find kind ways to speak to my family members, my children, my spouse.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

The Gift of Time

Originally Written March 22, 2020

Yesterday as our family knelt in family prayer I was overcome with the feeling that God is giving me a gift. It is a gift he is giving me to prepare my children for whatever is coming next. 

In the past several months - really probably the past several years - I have been wishing that I could just have more time. More time to teach my children the gospel, more time to talk with them and get to know them, more time to slow down and play with them. When you have seven children there is never enough time. And being a teacher-mom means I have had even less time with each child.

I feel like I have been given a great and powerful gift with the current global pandemic. The gift I have been given is to have my children in my home full time, insulated from the attacks of the adversary, and in my care so that I can more intensely nurture them and prepare them. While our home has been a little chaotic this past week, I have also noticed some incredible God-given changes. My children are kinder, and more soft spoken. They are more helpful, and more spiritual. I get to control, for the most part, what happens in our home, and I have chosen to make sure that there are a lot of calm, peaceful interactions. Children must be taught to be calm, and the world doesn't teach them to be calm. We must teach them that calm and peace within the walls of our home.

Each interaction with my children this week has been precious to me. There is no rushing, just being together. I have honestly savored every moment. Let me throw a little reality in there, though... when I took my 16 year old son out driving, we got in the car and shut the doors and just sat for a moment. Then I said, "It's so quiet!"

Having all seven children home full time reminds me of the first few times my husband and I got our families together. The scene as chaotic, but full of joy. We called it "joyful chaos". Those two words are the most accurate description of our family life.

Today while we were participating in the ordinance of the sacrament with our family in our "home church", I had a beautiful vision. Our home was encased in great shield, not unlike the ones in a science fiction movie. I felt a power surrounding our house, keeping out the evils in the world, and increasing the love and strength inside our home.

We live in a confusing time, and for a lot of people, a scary and disappointing time. I feel incredibly blessed to have the peace that we have.

Staying Focused

"Being self-reliant does not mean that we can do or obtain anything we set our mind to."

I read this sentence for the first time last fall. It rocked my world. I have always believed that if I wanted anything, all I would need to do is work hard and stay focused, and I could obtain it.

I have been working hard my entire life to be financially secure and to have a strong family. And there I was, in a very precarious financial situation, blending a family and co-parenting with an ex-spouse. My life is so much not what I have been working for.

To be completely honest, I was beginning to get burned out. Working hard for so long and not achieving what I thought I would be able to achieve has been exhausting. I thought I was self reliant because of this mindset that if I just work hard I can do anything I put my mind to.

So if self reliance is not being able to do or obtain anything we set our mind to, what is it? The Church's Personal Finances for Self-Reliance course book describes it this way:

"Rather, it is believing that through the grace, or enabling power, of Jesus Christ and our own effort, we are able to obtain all the spiritual and temporal necessities of life we require for ourselves and our families. Self reliance is evidence of our trust or faith in God’s power to move mountains in our lives and to give us strength to triumph over trials and afflictions."

My focus had been on my own abilities, rather on the enabling power of Jesus Christ and having faith in God's will for me. I have been trying to be more focused on God's will in my life. One aspect of this was resigning as a school teacher. Being a stay at home mom has always been one of my life goals, and yet I always found reasons why it wasn't possible. When the global pandemic hit and schools were shut down and teachers were expected to teach from home, I was able to "test drive" my dream. It was beautiful. I loved being home with my kids, and it made me want it more than anything else. So I resigned. It took a lot of faith, because without my income, we wouldn't be able to pay the bills. But God will provide, and has. Going to Air Force basic training this summer allowed us to save a LOT of money, pay off some debts, and prepare for my exit from the full time workforce. It also gave my husband some time to figure out how to increase his earning power to be able to replace my income. 

Sometimes we loose focus, and rely on our own abilities, rather than the grace of God. I hope I can learn to stay focused on that grace, and on God's will.

Have you ever lost focus? What did you do to refocus yourself on the things that matter most? How have you learned to rely on God's will rather than your own ability?

Monday, August 5, 2019

Outward Performances and the Law of Moses

As I began to study the Come Follow Me lesson for this week, my attention was drawn to the section titled "My outward actions must reflect and increase inner conversion." The early Saints after the Savior's death still believed that they were required to practice the rites and rituals of the law of Moses to obtain salvation. I was then intrigue by this assertion in the manual:
This may seem like a problem that doesn't apply any more since we don't live by the law of Moses. But as you read Paul's writings... think about your own efforts to live the gospel.
This got me thinking about all of the rites and rituals we perform or participate in as members of the restored Church of Jesus Christ. Why, if the law of Moses has been fulfilled, and we profess to follow Jesus Christ, do we continue to participate in rites and rituals?

The first thing I did was head to Doctrine & Covenants Section 132 for a little refresher on the New and Everlasting Covenant (which is really most of what the temple rites and rituals are about). As I studied about the marriage covenant and sealing power and authority I was reminded that the New and Everlasting Covenant is in regards to exaltation rather than salvation.

Salvation vs Exaltation

In Moses chapter 1 verse 39, the Lord tells Moses, "Behold, this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."

President Russell M. Nelson taught, "To be saved - or to gain salvation - means to be saved from physical and spiritual death." This salvation comes because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and His atoning sacrifice. We are all saved. This is what fulfilled the Law of Moses - Christ died for us, and made that eternal sacrifice so that we can all be saved. The Law of Moses was a way to remind the Jews that Christ would come and would die for all the world.

President Russell M. Nelson continued, "To be exalted - or to gain exaltation - refers to the highest state of happiness and glory in the celestial realm." This is different from salvation because it is not something that just comes to everyone - we have to make certain covenants and promises, and we make those covenants and promises through rites and rituals that are reminiscent of the Law of Moses.

Rites and Rituals

When we make covenants and promises with Heavenly Father toward our exaltation, such as baptism, receiving the priesthood for worthy males, and making temple covenants, we do so only once for ourselves. We are baptized only once ever for ourselves, and we participate in temple covenants only once for ourselves. Unlike the Law of Moses, where the rites and rituals had to be performed regularly, we only perform those rites and rituals once for our own exaltation, or eternal life. The only rite or ritual we perform multiple times for ourselves is the sacrament. However, partaking of the sacrament, while an important practice for remembering the Savior, is not essential for exaltation.

Outward Symbols of an Inner Commitment

So why all the rites and rituals? What is the point, if we believe the Law of Moses has been fulfilled and that salvation is given to all men, regardless of what we do?

The Book of Mormon gives a stirring account of some early Saints who lived prior to the life of Christ but knew of Him and the fullness of His gospel. Essentially, they already knew that Christ would come and that He would give us the beautiful gift of the atonement. However, they were still required to live the Law of Moses and participate in those rites and rituals.
Yea, and they did keep the law of Moses; for it was expedient that they should keep the law of Moses as yet, for it was not all fulfilled. But notwithstanding the law of Moses, they did look forward to the coming of Christ, considering that the law of Moses was a type of his coming, and believing that they must keep those outward performances until the time that he should be revealed unto them.
Now they did not supposed that salvation came by the law of Moses; but the law of Moses did serve to strengthen their faith in Christ; and thus they did retain a hope through faith, unto eternal salvation, relying upon the spirit of prophecy, which spake of those things to come.
The Saints in the Americas did not keep the Law of Moses because they thought they needed to do all of those things in order to gain salvation. They kept the Law of Moses because they used those rites and rituals to strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ.

Likewise, we are not required to take the sacrament, or participate in temple ordinances. Even if we have made covenants for ourselves in the temple, there is no requirement to return to the temple for our own exaltation. We did what was required. So why go back? Why take the sacrament? The Book of Mormon gives us this beautiful explanation and admonition: "to strengthen [our] faith in Christ."

It is easy to think of partaking of the sacrament and attending the temple as some kind of check box. Each week we take the sacrament on Sunday, "check"! Each time we attend the temple to perform vicarious works for the dead, "check"! We will probably get a lot more out of the rites and rituals that we perform regularly if we approach it as the Saints did in the Americas - as a way to strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ.

The section from the Come Follow Me manual ends with these questions:

Are your outward performances, such as taking the sacrament or attending the temple, leading you to conversion and strengthening your faith in Christ? How can you ensure that your outward actions are leading to a change of heart?

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Cut to the Very Center

Today in fast and testimony meeting I was thinking about my parenting in the past several weeks. I have been in lecture mode, and I was reflecting on ways I could teach my children (specifically my teenagers) without lectures. It is one of my life goals to raise my children, especially my teens, to be self-reflective, self-motivated, and hard working. I try to lead by example, but sometime I am afraid that my lectures are obscuring my example, and they become discouraged or disinterested in growth.

Then I was thinking about how as parents we spend a lot of time helping our children with course correction, and how they may not always appreciate that at this time in their lives. I know that I probably didn't appreciate the helpful criticism of my parents when I was a teen.

But now that I am in the position of parent I actually crave helpful criticism. It would be so helpful to have people in my life speak out and point out those areas in which I can improve. In the first book of Nephi chapter 16, Nephi admits that he has been lecturing his siblings, and that "the guilty take the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center." Every day I feel the need to be cut to my very center. I am not a finished product - far from it - and I need all the cutting down I can get.

I am in a stage of life where the people who speak truth to me are typically speaking truth in general terms and to a large group of people, and not specifically directed at me. It is up to me to reflect on my own life and personality and allow words of truth to cut me "to the very center". This takes a lot of humility, and an enormous ability to rely on and hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Both are areas of life that I struggle with and work on every day.

Perhaps as I work to teach my children about self reflection, self motivation, and hard work, I can use examples from my own life, and allow them to consider if the truth is cutting them to the very center, causing them the discomfort of growth. Then we can learn together, and I can focus on my own personal growth more than lecturing my teenagers.

What do you use as a source of truth to help refine you and cut you to the very center? If you have teens (or if you were a teen) what strategies helped you teach (or learn) self-reflection, self-motivation and hard work?

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