Thursday, February 28, 2013

Isaiah's Parenting Passage

Years ago my brother asked me to share with him one of my favorite scriptures. I don’t remember which one I referenced at that time but I do remember the scripture he shared with me. Isaiah 61:1-3

Now, not many people even read Isaiah, let alone find a favorite scripture among his writings, so I was intrigued. I asked him to explain why. Because of his explanation this passage of scripture is now one of my favorites as well.

This passage is a Messianic passage, meaning it is referencing the Savior and his role. My brother said we are told to become like the Savior and, if we are truly trying to be like Him, we will follow the example He set and do as He does. "That means this passage about the Savior applies to me as a husband and a father," he said. "This is what I need to become."

And, as he read the passage and applied it to his role in life, I realized it also applied to me...and to everyone no matter what roles we carry.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek;” Good tidings—good news. We are to preach the good news of the gospel to our families and friends. Leave the doom and gloom to the world and teach and reteach the blessings the Lord has instore for us.

“...he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted,” This, my brother said, is one of his most important roles as a father. When his children have their hearts broken by life, he is to use his priesthood and his understanding of the gospel to help heal their hearts.

“ proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;” This phrase caused my brother to get a little emotional. As a parent and a man he was seeing how choices can imprison those we love. Yet, he said, when his children sin--and they will--he is not to throw them into a verbal or emotional prison with his response, criticism or belittling. If he is to be more like Christ, then he is to give them the key to repentance, help them see they can repent and change, and teach them in a loving and personal way the blessings that will come into their lives for staying close to the Savior. He is to help them open the prison doors and escape the captivity of their choices.

“To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God;” In this phrase the Lord is announcing a full year of acceptance and blessings and only one day of any kind of punishment. As a parent, my brother said he must always remember that 1:365 ratio. He smiled and said, “That tells me I only have one day every year I’m allowed to be upset. I have to keep my grumbling, harshness and complaining to under 24 hours. It puts it in prospective for me. Is getting upset about it really that important in the big picture of time? Probably not.”

“ comfort all that mourn;” This, he said, is self explanatory. It is his calling to comfort his wife and children whenver they are mourning...not analyze whether they could have done something better. He is called to comfort them—not pick them apart. There are other times for teaching, but at the moment of their mourning he is to follows the Savior's example and give them comfort and hope. Period.

“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes,” This, he said, was one of his favorite phrases in the passage. When the fires of life burn the self-confidence of a family member or friend, or when doubts plague them into feeling they are of little value, a Christ-like person will point out their strengths and inner qualities. He will help them see beauty where others may see only ashes. In the midst of their trials, he will help them notice the ways they are growing and thriving and succeeding every day. He will give them beauty for ashes.

“...the oil of joy for mourning,” My brother said he is to use prayer and his priesthood often to bless his family and bring joy into their lives. The oil of joy should also be what he carries whenever he is around them. Families are a tremendous joy and blessing.

“...the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;” When life weighs them down, he is to make sure his words dress them in praise and hope.

“...that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” My brother knows that if he fulfills his role as a Christ-like husband and father, his family will become trees of righteousness—strong, with deep roots and well-spread branches and the Lord will be glorified for that planting.

That passage of scripture is a good touchstone for all of us. Since that day, years ago, I have never forgotten the gift my brother gave me by sharing one of his favorite scriptures with me.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Out of the mouth of babes...

Mom and Dad, I want to share with you what your teenagers said in Sunday School class today. As part of our lesson I had them randomly draw pieces of paper with different scripture passages listed on them. Then I had them silently read that story and share something new they learned from it.

Your son—the one that you think may not go on a mission but pursue an athletic scholarship instead--randomly drew the story of Gideon selecting his troops for a battle against the Midianites. (Judges 7). After reading it, do you know the impression he shared?

“I found it interesting that Gideon started out with 32,000 soliders but the Lord said that there were too many soldiers--because if they fought the Midianites with that many, they might say ‘Mine own hand hath saved me.’ So God told Gideon to tell the soldiers that anyone who was afraid needed to go home and 22,000 men went home. That was alot who were afraid and left.”

Then he said this, “But, I guess that’s probably a good thing they went home, because if you are afraid you’re a liability to all the rest; and the Lord can’t really use you because you don’t have the kind of faith He needs you to have to work a miracle. If you want to see miracles in your life, you can't be afraid. You can't let fear chase you away. You have to have faith.”

And your daughter, who has life-long health issues, randomly drew the second half of Gideon’s story about surrounding the enemy with trumpets and lanterns. She said she immediately thought of how a trumpet is on top of the temples and the light of Christ rests inside them, and if we remember to declare His truth with a trump of God and let our light break forth from deep inside us where we sometimes want to keep it hidden, then we can conquer the enemy—no matter how numerous they are or how small we are. "The temples will help us surround our enemies and win our battles."

And your other son, the one who is struggling with peer pressure, drew the story of Peter walking on the water. (Matt. 14) This is what he said:

“I found it sad because Peter got distracted by what was going on around him and lost his focus on the Savior. If I was in the presence of the Savior I wouldn't want to look anywhere else but at His face, yet Peter didn't do that. He started looking at the waves and the storm and everything that was going on around him. Even Peter found a way to be afraid in the presence of the Savior, and that’s when he started to sink. I think, sometimes we can be like that. We can be right there, right where the Savior can reach out and touch us, but we forget that and we start looking at everything else. We should always look straight at Him and then we won't be afraid when He asks us to do something, even if it seems overwhelming, like walking on the water.”

And your son, who is so quiet that you find it hard to see inside his soul, was asked to share a new impression about the story of Eli and the boy Samuel (1 Samuel 3). “I thought it was neat that each time the Lord called him, Samuel got up and went to Eli. He didn’t just lay in bed and call out and say, 'what do you want, Eli?' He actually got up out of bed and went to Eli’s room. You have to be a very faithful person to get up and go every time you’re called—especially when it's the middle of the night and you’re tired and doing something else, like sleeping. So that tells me Samuel was faithful and very willing to do what was right even if he was tired and wanting to sleep and I want to be like that.”

(By the way, I found that quiet son of yours at the church the other day because he was following an impression that he needed to go there, even though he didn't know why. Yes, he is already showing signs of being faithful like that and is willing to go and answer the call of the Spirit, even if he doesn't fully know why.)

So, Mom and Dad, you’re teenagers are doing great! If you ever want to know what is stirring down inside their souls, all you have to do is ask me, their Sunday School teacher. I will tell you you are raising some great children. They are aware of the individual struggles they are facing and they are finding the Lord's voice in the scriptures as it speaks to them. So, keep loving them. Keep praying for them. Keep teaching them and doing what you are doing. It's working!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Alma 29--a promise, not a platitude

“O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!

"Yea I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.

"But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.

“I ought not to harrow up in my desires…”

How many times have we used this passage of scripture to soothe ourselves through a disappointment? We say, look at Alma. He understood disappointment. He knew what it was like to accept and be content with less than what he originally wanted.

But that kind of look at that passage of scriptures causes us to miss what Alma was really pointing out...

Alma said, I ought not to harrow up in my desires. Harrow means to be distressed or broken up. He is saying he shouldn't be distressed or broken up over his desires not being realized right then. That is an interesting comment...but it is true.

You see, Alma was stating that he wished he could take the gospel to all the earth and cry repentance unto every people as “with the trump of God.” He wanted to teach the whole world about the plan of Salvation and how to change and come unto Christ…the gospel was that important to him!

But he was one little missionary in the Americas…probably only spoke one, maybe two languages, could only preach where he could walk. How in the world was he going to get his message out to the whole world and to every people and language, like he wanted?

Yet, despite the physical limitations of his life, Alma trusted the Lord--He also understood the plan in its eternal sense and that is why he boldly declared… “for I know that he granteth unto men accord to their desire.”

Now look at this picture with the angel Moroni and tell me whether or not God ignored Alma's wish?

Alma 29 is one of the most wonderful, powerful and exciting testimonies that God does grant unto men according to their desire! He does hear and answer prayers—it just takes time sometimes, but God granted Alma his wish!

Alma's message IS going to all the world, in over 100 different languages—to places he never could have dreamed about! His voice is still declaring repentance and the plan of redemption. In fact, the Lord granted Alma his wish in such detail that, for years, there was an image of a trump of God in the mouth of an angel on the cover of the Book of Mormon!

God is much more generous and loving than we can even comprehend. He stands so ready to grant us the righteous desires of our hearts!

"And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you..." (3 Nephi 18:20)

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, even as you desire of me so it shall be unto you; and if you desire, you shall be the means of doing much good in this generation.” (D&C 6:7-8)

Alma did much good in his generation…and he is still doing much good generations later.

Alma 29 is a wonderful testament to Alma's righteous heart, and to God.

It is also a wonderful promise for us. In time, God will grant unto us according to our righteous desires.

And that is worth waiting for!