I hopped on my elliptical machine to exercise, and turned on TV to make the time go by faster. Every channel clamored for my attention, such as commercials and programs shooting out dizzying images, grating voices, and quirky phrases to capture my focus. Even news channels bombarded my senses with moving messages along the bottom and sides of the screen in addition to spoken words. I was on sensory overload and my ears throbbed. Exasperated, I switched off the TV and tapped my phone to The Mormon Channel. By contrast, I listened to an apostle of the Lord speaking in a humble voice about an important principle of truth. His voice was soft; his message powerful. Ah—what relief! Spiritual truth cannot compete with the flash and flair of the world, if we are energized by those things. The world shouts in voices that are brassy and harsh; God speaks with the quiet voice of the Spirit which lingers and lifts. I need to seek quiet places to hear answers to my prayers, to hear God’s counsel, to feel His peace. “Therefore, let us follow after the things which make for peace” (Romans 14:19). God’s peace is what energizes and sustains me even through difficult days. In this I find Reasons to Rejoice!
When people say, “I want to give my children a better life,” they infer that they experienced some form of deprivation growing up, and want to provide better. This is a great goal if it is more than providing material comforts and conveniences, which in excess can deprive children of lessons learned from sacrifice, patience, and hard work. What can we give our children and grandchildren that will be of the most value, both in this life and the next? The Lord has given parents responsibility to teach children principles of virtue, light, and truth. These values are not usually learned in school classrooms or from friends. “Ye will not suffer your children…that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil…but ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another” (Mosiah 4:14-15). We can make our homes houses of learning where we talk openly, listen, encourage questioning, testify, exemplify, and seek learning ourselves, for we cannot teach what we do not know. “Reverently speak of the Savior—in the car, on the bus, at the dinner table, as you kneel in prayer, during scriptures study, or late-night conversations—and the Spirit of the Lord will accompany your words…Your testimony will never leave your children…and will prepare them for the challenges they will most surely face” (Neil A. Anderson).
During my working years as a consulting engineer, I often felt like a man juggling many balls in the air while trying desperately not to drop any of them. Soon I had to modify these unrealistic expectations. When I had to stay at work late into the night, I was being a very good consulting engineer. When I left work early to attend a granddaughter’s soccer game, I was being a very good grandfather. When I kept the Sabbath day holy I was being a very good Church member. Interestingly, I learned that I can’t be the best at everything all at the same time. The key: Identify the most important items for that day to assure their completion. Make sure the most important (not necessarily the most urgent) things are the priorities. Those in the second tier of importance can usually be rolled into the next day. For me, the priorities include: prayer, scripture study, exercise, family needs, work, and service. “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities” (Stephen Covey).
Is happiness getting what we want? Is happiness the absence of adversity? Is it a trouble-free pattern of days? Is happiness power? Is happiness health? Is happiness beauty? Is happiness prosperity? I’d answer a resounding NO to each of these. Counterfeits of happiness are being trumpeted before our eyes continually. They have a similar appearance to real joy, but lack depth and enduring power. Happiness is not found in things. It is not found in circumstance. “Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping the commandments of God” (Joseph Smith). It’s simple, really. Happiness is following the commandments of God. This authentic happiness isn’t flashed with flare and fireworks. Real joy is quiet and sustaining. “You may pour wealth, honor, influence, and all the luxuries of this world into the lap of man; and—destitute of the Spirit of God—he will not be happy, for that is the only source from which true happiness and comfort can come” (John Taylor).
I want my home to be beautiful, a little spot of heaven for my family. I want it to be filled with love and laughter, good conversation and healthy nourishment. I want it to be clean and orderly, where fresh fragrance welcomes and soothes. Home should be refuge from the world and safety from the storm, where kindly words and interactions abound. I consider my house to be a “self-portrait. It has aesthetic leanness, a paring down that I have come to appreciate. That spare, quiet quality makes me feel calm” (Sue Bender). Years ago after moving into a new house, I slipped into the garden and knelt in prayer to thank God for our home. I would furnish it with elements of beauty, but most importantly, I promised to create an atmosphere where His Spirit could be felt. Décor can be pleasing to the eye, but a wholesome atmosphere is beauty to the soul. My earnest desire is to make my home a “house of prayer…a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God” (D&C 88:119).
Statistical reports claim that in 2012, Americans spent over 11 billion dollars on cosmetic surgeries such as face and body lifts, Botox injections, breast augmentations, liposuction, and other optional, reconstructive surgeries. An increasing number of men in every age group are also seeking plastic surgeries. As I read these reports, I felt ashamed of this excessive expenditure when so many people in the world are going without the basics of food, shelter, and critical medical treatment. In my opinion this excessive spending is a reflection of misplaced priorities and values. I like this quote: “Create a life that feels good on the inside, not one that just looks good on the outside.” What are we doing to build and strengthen the inner soul? How much time do we spend nurturing others and feeding our spirit? How often do we reach out a helping hand to those in need? How does this compare with time and resources spent on external things? I need this reminder to always remember these words from the Bible: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve. . .but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:1).
When cleaning out a closet, drawer, or room, my friend Alice Osborne taught me to examine each item carefully and ask:
- Do I love it?
- Do I use it?
- Do I need it?
- Do I have room for it?
Wow! Answers to these questions eliminate a lot of stuff. She taught me to have three containers handy—one for trash, one for charity, and another for relocation to another room. A rarely used item should not take up prime real estate on the most accessible shelf. Minimize. Simplify. Organize. There is a feeling of power knowing where everything is located in my house—to put my finger on a needed item in an instant, rather than rifling through piles. Maybe this is odd, but I like ample space between clothes hanging in my closet. When I buy something new, I make myself eliminate an item rarely worn. While walking through my house, I ask myself the above questions, touching every item of décor and furnishings. I believe that everything taking up space should fulfill a meaningful purpose. I’m striving for this, but am not perfect. I believe that order is more than management of temporal things. It’s governed by a spiritual principle as when the Lord commanded, “Set in order your houses: keep slothfulness and uncleanness far from you” (D&C 90:18). I’m sure this means spiritual order as well as physical. I’ve got work to do. I’m heading for a particular closet right now!
- Can you share an organizational tip?
- How is spiritual order manifested?