“What did you learn at school today?”
Can every parent relate to this dialogue at the dinner table? Parent: “So what did you learn at school today?” Child: “Oh, nothing.” As a teacher, I spent countless hours planning and preparing stimulating experiences to unleash student potential, and would have been crestfallen to hear this! Absolutely nothing? Really? Probably the child did learn something at school, but didn’t value it enough to remember and report. Similarly, my Heavenly Father must be disappointed in my failure to remember, report, and record what I learn each day. Each precious day of life is “school”—and Christ is my Master Teacher. He provides parables and gems of insight if I have eyes to see. If not, I show ingratitude for His efforts in my behalf, like the child saying, “Oh nothing” when asked what he learned in school. So, I decided to recount in prayer what I had learned at the end of each day. And then record it in my journal. At first I struggled to extract spiritual lessons from ordinary days. It was a stretch. But gradually I got the hang of it, and discovered, to my surprise, that there were many lessons drawn from seemingly unspectacular events. (Many of my blog ideas have come from this source.) Give it a try. It has made life more meaningful and joyful to recognize God’s loving efforts to teach me.
Early or Late?
My sister was always on time. In fact she considered herself late if she was less than10 minutes early to every engagement. Somehow she learned early in her life the hidden message behind promptness. She placed great value on others’ time as well as her own. Arriving late is a way of saying that your own time is more valuable than of the person waiting for you. Being early clearly sends the opposite message. Every occasion requiring our attendance should be regarded as important. Whether it is a church meeting, a soccer game, a concert, a political gathering, or a meeting with family members, we should plan to be early. I know there are extenuating circumstances, particularly when raising young children, but my goal is to be on time (and prepared). A funny antidote was expressed by Franklin P. Jones. “The trouble with being punctual is that nobody’s there to appreciate it.” Next time you attend a function, look to see who is early. It will amaze you.
I almost missed this moment!
Still dripping from her nighttime bath (long ago), my 7-year-old daughter pleaded to sit down to the piano for singing time. It was late. I was tired and there were others to tuck in bed, as well as a long list yet to do before turning in. The temptation to say, “Not tonight” was pulling on me, but a quiet voice inside urged me to give just a few minutes at the piano. I shudder to think how close I came to missing it. She flipped to her favorite song, “My Heavenly Father Loves Me.” After singing both verses, her beautiful blue eyes brimmed with tears. Quickly she explained. “Mom, I love that song! It makes me have a tight feeling in here when I sing the words, ‘He gave me my life, my mind, my heart.’ And when it comes to the ending, ‘Yes, I know Heavenly Father loves me’—it’s like in my Sunday school class when my teacher tells us that Heavenly Father loves us, I think, yeah, that’s nice. But when I sing this song, I FEEL that He loves me. I KNOW He loves me!” She threw her arms around my neck and whispered, “This will always be our song, Mom. We’ll always remember this night, won’t we?” Now decades later, rereading this journal entry, I am profoundly grateful for the whisperings of the Holy Ghost—to capture this moment with my daughter, and for helping her discover what it feels like to KNOW that something is true. As I look back, some of the little things and small moments are the most precious in life. I am tempted to think that there are no little things.
Cover Your Ears?
While attending a sporting event, my ears burned hearing a deluge of coarse, crude words from the surrounding crowd. Tolerance for this growing trend in our society is not right. George Washington felt the same way as he instructed his troops. “The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.” Why do people use such language? I believe many have become desensitized because of the frequency of hearing them. Some may feel that words are only words, but Rudyard Kipling fully understood their implications. “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used on mankind.” Foul words are habit-forming just like a drug. God commands us to use clean language. “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). Taking the Lord’s name in vain may take different forms, and perhaps one of them is using uncouth language, even when the Lord’s name is not specifically profaned. This habit is becoming way too prevalent in our society. I want to keep my thoughts clean and my mind clear. When I hear crude words, I try replacing them with clean, inspiring and uplifting thoughts, or even lyrics to good music.
This incident led me to see people in a new way.
The car in front of me slowly came to a complete stop, not at a traffic light, but in the middle of an empty road. Being in a hurry, my thoughts spun into a critical and cranky mode. I impatiently grumbled—Lady, why did you stop in the middle of the road? What are you doing? Then almost immediately a child emerged from the other side of the car. A moment before, the child was completely hidden from my view. Wow—that one little piece of information changed my entire perception! And of course, my criticism of the stopped car switched to respect and relief. I’ve been thinking how this incident relates to loving those who are hard to love. I fall short, but I’m striving to be an advocate rather than a critic. If I observe unbecoming behaviors in others, instead of jumping to rash judgment, I can remind myself that there are important pieces of information hidden from my view. If I had that information, my perception would slide from criticism to compassion. My mother used to tell me, “There are only two kinds of people—those you love and those you don’t know.” She explained that if I made the effort to really get to know people—to learn their stories, their heartaches and hopes, to see into their hearts—I would love them. Missing information can illuminate a softer perspective.
A Welcoming Site
I hear the phrase often that I am going to church. What that means varies by individuals and by religions. To some this entails Sunday worship for a few hours. As the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not have a paid ministry, everyone is expected to participate either by teaching or serving. As a member, I have learned that going to church involves more than merely the geography of my body. God declared, “And now, behold, I give unto you a commandment, that when ye are assembled together ye shall instruct and edify each other” (Doctrine and Covenants 43:8) When I find myself merely going to church quite unprepared, it is less effective in getting the gospel “inside me.” Thus I become a “taker’ rather than a “giver”. I can prepare for Church by pre-reading lessons, accepting any calling to serve and giving my best effort. As one of my goals is to develop more Christ-like attributes, it is imperative that I don’t regard my church-going casually, rather being fully engaged in the process of seeking, learning, and participating. When I am prepared to learn and serve, then my going to church will cause my soul to grow. Have you had any similar experiences?
I am a minimalist. I strive for simplicity—which is the art of shedding unnecessary physical and other encumbrances that get in the way of life’s priorities. A good guideline comes from Anne Morrow Lindberg: “Ask how little, not how much, can I get along with—to say, Is it necessary?—when I am tempted to add one more accumulation to my life.” These accumulations require space to keep them, time to maintain, clean, and repair them. I believe in the adage that less is more—fewer things kept in order. Consumerism can be oppressive—the frenzy of getting and spending. What are the things that bring the greatest pleasure and deepest joy, that move and thrill me to the core? They are the simple things: my testimony of the Savior; whisperings of the Spirit; my precious husband, children, grandchildren, and dear friends; good music; inspirational works of art and literature; sacred things; and nature’s magnificence. All these things are creations of, or inspirations from, Heavenly Father—reflections of Him on earth. They kindle a kind of homesickness—something and someplace that I can’t quite remember, but almost can. These simple reflections of God lift me above the pain and suffering, crime and ugliness of the world—into a higher plane of light and beauty. When I listen to uplifting music, discover a scriptural insight, snuggle a soft baby, or gaze at a breathtaking sunset—I feel a sweet longing, or homesickness for “Fatherland” as C.S. Lewis called it. These simple things are Reasons to Rejoice!