I will never forget the time I wanted to stoke my wood-burning fireplace with a lump of coal to extend the flame. Being in a hurry and not wanting to take time to change out of my white sweater dress, I decided to just be very careful retrieving the coal. (Silly me!) I went to the garage and gingerly opened the bag while slowly extracting a lump. Holding it out in front of me with extended arms, I walked back into the house and slid the lump of coal on top of the fire. I smiled smugly at my family for this amazing feat before rushing out the door to my meeting. But as I was about to make my presentation, I was horrified to notice a black smear of soot on my sleeve. Here is the lesson I learned that day: It is pride to think I can deviate even a little from the covenantal path without getting smudged in some way. I can’t tango with sin without its dirt rubbing off on me. The smear may not be immediately discernable but it is there all the same—and will bring me down. The Lord gives commandments to protect, not restrict us. He is a loving God—not a punitive God. I trust Him. “The discipline contained in daily obedience…builds an armor of protection and safety from the temptations that beset you as you proceed through mortality” (L. Tom Perry). This I believe with all my heart.
Have you ever compared our covenant with Christ to a marriage covenant? Just as a husband and wife become ONE with each other through the covenant of marriage, the Savior and a faithful follower become ONE with each other through the covenant of the gospel. Spouses renounce all other loyalties, and put each other first. One who covenants with Christ surrenders all competing claims on his allegiance, and puts God first. A bride takes her husband’s last name and becomes heir to his property. Those who covenant with Christ take upon themselves Christ’s name and become heirs of His glorious kingdom. Spouses pledge fidelity to one another. Covenant-keepers pledge enduring faithfulness to Christ. They are continent, committed, and converted. “May the joy of our fidelity to the highest and best within us be ours as we keep our love and our marriages, our society and our souls, as pure as they were meant to be” (Jeffrey R. Holland). I want more than anything to endure to the end as a faithful covenant-keeper with Christ, and remain faithful to my sacred marriage covenants. This guarantees a multitude of Reasons to Rejoice now—and throughout eternity.
Righteous routines and holy habits are those little things I should regularly do and feel to draw close to the Savior—who gives me the enabling power to resist temptation and deception, stay true to my covenants, and find joy. This is my personal list:
Things to do daily:
- Pray morning and night.
- Study scriptures.
- Exercise and make healthy eating choices.
- Offer kindly service to someone.
Things to do weekly:
- Attend church and partake of the sacrament.
- Plan family time together.
- Record insights, special moments, and gratitude in my journal.
- Attend the temple and pay tithing.
Attitudes to feel continually:
- Demonstrate an attitude of gratitude.
- Be teachable and eager to learn.
- Smile and reflect joy in each new day.
- Learn to see and celebrate the best in others.
What have I left out? What is on your list of righteous routines and holy habits?
Is it love?
A wonderful Christian couple adopted 14 children from various countries around the world. Although they experienced the usual problems of a large family—plus extra ones inherent in cultural diversity—they were united, happy, and thriving. The question everyone wanted to know was finally asked: “So, what is your secret? Is it love? Does love hold your family together?” I strained to hear the answer. Of course it would be love. But the sweet mother hesitated before saying, “Love is fragile. Loving feelings come and go. What holds us together as a family is commitment. I promised God that I would never give up on my children—I would keep trying, no matter how hard things got.” My own thoughts continued on. Emotions of love happen easily. We “fall” in love with a newborn baby, or we “fall” in love with an attractive beau. But what makes these feelings last is commitment to hang in there no matter how tough things get. It’s also the answer in marriage and all relationships. True also that commitment is what God asks me to do as the real test of my love for Him. It must be more than sweeping feelings of love or professed allegiance in a passing spiritual moment. It’s the commitment to follow Him and faithfully endure through the ups and downs of life. Instead of allowing difficulties to embitter or estrange, I pledge to pull closer to God. He will help me emerge stronger—better. His miracle is to turn trials into transforming agents of refinement. To demonstrate my love to God, I commit to be a finisher—not a quitter—and be a covenant-keeper to the end of my life.
REMEMBER your noble birthright!
You’ll laugh, but my favorite Disney movie is the classic, “Lion King.” I see meaningful symbolism of our relationship with God through the entire film. It’s really about people. The underlying theme is, remember who you are—you are a child of noble birth. Think how the following statements relate to people. Simba was marked across his forehead at birth denoting royalty and responsibility. (We are also marked with divine heritage.) Trouble began when Simba became prideful and disobedient. (As we often do.) After his mistake, he heeded an adversarial voice intended to blame and undermine self-worth. (The adversary’s greatest tool.) Simba tried to escape conscience by lowering his standards and taking up with friends who were carefree and aimless. (A typical escape.) Though satisfying for a while, it wasn’t total escape. (Never is.) There remained a deep pining for his father and longing for his higher purpose. (We also have a deep longing for God and our higher purpose.) Simba’s father breathed these words from the heavens: “You have forgotten who you are.” (God continually whispers of our divine nature and heritage.) The last line of the film is the word, “Remember…” I want to remember my noble birthright as a child of God with divine purpose; I want to remember my covenants; remember what I have felt; remember what I have learned; remember who I want to become; remember my responsibility to serve and lead. Perhaps the most important word in the dictionary is “remember,” taught Spencer W. Kimball. “Our greatest need is to remember.” Am I the only one who sees these spiritual messages in this film?
Family Going to Church
Do you know why Sunday is my favorite day? The Lord appointed the Sabbath as a holy day, set aside to worship and renew baptismal covenants while partaking of the sacrament. It fills my soul to mingle with fellow Christians as we learn together, sing together, and worship together. It is a spiritual feast to my hungry spirit. After church meetings are over, Alan and I return home to enjoy a simple meal, then off we go to choir practice. What else fills the hours, you ask? Lots of good options—such as studying scriptures and preparing next week’s Sunday school lessons. In warm weather we head out to the two-man hammock secluded under a canopy of trees—ahh—and gaze at our glorious mountains while reading aloud from the Ensign magazine. (Followed predictably by a little nap, of course.) I love to play the piano and sometimes Alan pulls out his guitar. Once a month we gather our local children and grandchildren for dinner and visiting. Teens join with adults while younger cousins play. The house resonates with wholesome laughter and sweet exchanges—so unifying. Before everyone leaves, we kneel together in family prayer. All these things draw me close to the Savior, adding fuel to my spiritual tank—truly reasons to rejoice!
“That thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day; for verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High” (D&C 59:9,10).