In seeking to dive into the scriptures this year for myself and for my family I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and studying the way God wants to talk to us and lead us.  The ways in which he wants to connect with us and light our way as we forge our path and form our relationships and families.

Speaking in the old tabernacle on revelation President McConkie said:

“And so it is with the revelations and visions of eternity. They are around us all the time. This Tabernacle is full of the same things which are recorded in the scriptures and much more. The vision of the degrees of glory is being broadcast before us, but we do not hear or see or experience because we have not tuned our souls to the wave band on which the Holy Ghost is broadcasting.

“The Comforter knoweth all things; he is commissioned to bear witness of the Father and the Son, to reveal, to teach, and to testify—and he is broadcasting all the truths of salvation, and all the knowledge and wisdom of God, out into all immensity all of the time.

“How this is done we do not know. We cannot comprehend God or the laws by which he governs the universe. But that it does happen we know because here in the valley below, when we attune our souls to the Infinite, we hear and see and experience the things of God.”

April General Conference 1971

I love this idea that, as we travel through this mortal wilderness, God is continually broadcasting “Truth” with a capital T to guide us and light our way.  We all have access to that Truth when we can tune our souls into God’s frequency and vibration.

Additionally, God is broadcasting out into the “immensity” our own personal truths, the truths that we need to direct our own small, but  significant worlds.

It is our job to figure out what our souls need in order to tune out the static and tune into God’s frequency.   

I can understand this concept a little better when I’m driving our little old 1985 Toyota pickup and trying to listen to the radio.  I know that music is being broadcast but with the truck’s old radio it’s tricky to tune into a station. The dial has to be carefully tuned to just the right spot order to pick up a signal.  If I move it slowly I can sift through the static and eventually find a clear signal.

Similarly, we need to figure out ways to tune into the truth God is broadcasting for us.  I believe He is eager for us to tune in, to find his vibration. Just as that old radio was carefully calibrated in its time to be able to find a signal, our souls are designed by God with the innate capacity to tune into His frequency.  This is not rocket science.

But because of the unique nature of our souls, there are as many ways to both tune into this vibration and fill our lives with static as there are children of God.  We all need to prayerfully seek to find and recognize what helps us individually to find a clear signal and what crowds it out with static. And we need to teach our kids this same process.

When we turn the dial to find a clear signal, maybe even for just a moment or two, God can give us powerful ideas and visions for what how we can direct our lives, help those around us and build God’s kingdom.  

Recently my sister shared with me a struggle she had been having to help her youngest daughter who was having a hard time accepting some changes coming up in their family life.  As she was praying for guidance the life static cleared for just a split second and she had a little vision, just a quick little flash. In this vision she saw herself sitting in her daughter’s room, criss cross applesauce on the floor, looking right into her clear blue eyes and talking.  That was it. The vision didn’t come with words to tell her what to say during this conversation, it didn’t include a nicely wrapped up conclusion to the issue at hand. It was just a half a second image, one she could have easily ignored.

But instead the next time she saw her daughter playing legos in her room she dropped what she was doing and went in and sat with her, legos strewn about the floor, both of them criss cross, their eyes meeting.  It was a simple conversation, nothing earth shattering, but that eye to eye connection and personal attention was just what this little one needed to feel more secure through the changes.

Often we think that we have to be perfect in order to find God’s frequency, but I believe God’s radio wave is broad and seeks us as much as we seek it. God reaches our reaching.  If we put forth whatever little meager efforts we have He will meet us where we are. At times it may seem we’re facing a multitude of seemingly impossible needs with only a few old pieces of bread and a little fish to offer.  But we all know God can work miracles with meager but heartfelt offerings.

I say all this as a reminder that the true source of direction and light as we seek to study and teach individually and in our homes is always God.  If we ask, our Heavenly Parents will help us work through the myriad of problems we face. Though answers and direction don’t always come right away, and rarely come in a nice and easy little package, we can trust that as we try to tune into God’s frequency, He will direct our efforts.  

This week’s readings are packed with fascinating truths to think about and discuss in our homes.  Before diving into studying and teaching these concepts think about the challenges you and/or your family/children are facing.  Bring issues to God and He will direct your study, prayer and efforts.

The Dangers of Hypocrisy

In the scripture passages for this week there seems to be a common theme of Christ coming out strong against hypocrisy.  From the parable of the fig tree, to the whited sepulcher, to the condemning of phylacteries, it seems that Jesus is fed up.  He has tried to get through to these hypocrites in a myriad of ways, but no number of miracles or powerful teaching have seemed to sink in to those who are mostly concerned with the approval of men and the appearance of exactness.  Those big phylacteries that the Pharisees are wearing to show their reverence for God’s law seem to be blocking their vision into what is deep and true.

These chapters are full of incidents, parables and teachings where Jesus calls out the incongruent ways of those who care more about what men think than about what God thinks.

It’s easy to sit high and mighty in our little worlds and balk at the pharisees for their blindedness, their inability to see what Jesus was trying to teach them, to grasp the power and beauty that comes from integrity and congruence of character.  But we’re missing the point if we don’t step back and look at our own lives. Where are we incongruent? What are the “phylacteries” that we like to put on? In what ways do we worry more about what others think than about doing things that are pleasing to God?  

I don’t think God intends for us to read these things and feel shame for the inevitable insincerity in our lives, the times when we can’t get our actions to match up with our beliefs.  This incongruence is part of the package of mortality and God knows it. But if we can’t step into that space of vulnerability and look at our lives to examine how we can find more congruence than we are in the same prideful place as those Jesus was calling out.

As you read through these chapters by yourself or with your children, perhaps make a list of antidotes that Jesus gives us to combat the inevitable hypocrisy we face within ourselves during mortality.  These chapters are packed full of Jesus’ admonitions to remember things like: the first shall be last, the last first; the greatest among you shall be your servant; the fig tree that appears to bear fruit but then withers away.  Maybe make a list of synonyms to hypocrisy. What attributes crop up in the natural man that make us more prone to valuing the opinion of God more than man? What things in this world make it tempting for us to project a different version of ourselves to the world?  What makes it hard to be vulnerable and authentic? On the flip side, what are attributes that are the opposite of hypocrisy? Maybe honesty, forthrightness, the ability to be real and genuine and vulnerable? What can you come up with?

This principle of integrity and congruence will especially ring true to teenagers.  In my experience, pre-teens and teens have a sensitive radar for hypocrisy, especially towards those who they are closest to.  This can be a huge challenge if we’re trying to maintain the image of a whited sepulchre. It’s a given that none of us are perfect.  That is not the problem. The problem comes when we, as imperfect people, try to project perfection. This is tempting to do as a parent, sometimes because we care what the outside world thinks, but often also because we want our children to trust us, we want to set a good example for them, we want to show them what it means to live a really good life.  

As parents we must be real and open and exposed, if we can’t  show our children what it looks like to fall short and get things wrong then we are not only setting them up for unrealistic expectations of themselves and their own lives, but also to view us as hypocrites.  If we project perfection to the outside world and inside our homes our kids see or feel something different, the cognitive dissonance they experience can be devastating.

One of the greatest gifts my parents gave me was an imperfect home.  One where we let it all hang out, where they were honest about their beliefs and about their inability to always live up to them.  My parents didn’t get it all right, like all of us there was a lot of trial and error, a lot of falling short. But they owned up to this.  Who they were at home matched what they projected to the world. This gave me a solid form of deep security and trust in the them and in the world.

When we are not authentic, our children will lose their trust in us, and perhaps in other parts of the gospel and the world.   Even very young children can pick up on inauthenticity, and it is likely more damaging to them than our human mistakes are. As parents, of course we err, of course we’re struggling and stumbling right along with our children.  The goal isn’t to project perfection as parents, the goal is to be authentic and honest to our children and to the world. To show our kids what it looks like to try and mess up, to believe things deeply and then use forgiveness and repentance over and over again to get closer to living what we know to be true.

Christ and the Pharisees – Ernst Zimmerman

The greatest commandment.

In Matthew 22, Jesus is asked which commandment is the greatest.  His answer, now so familiar to us, must have been a bit shocking to the lawyer who asked it and to those who were listening.  Love is greater than all the commandments. Loving God and loving others, these are the commandments upon which all other commandments hang (see vs. 40).  

As plainly as Jesus stated it, and as much as we have heard it, it’s easy sometimes to still put other commandments above that of love.  Love is a hard, immeasurable commandment. It’s not one we can check off our list at the end of the day. Not one we obey perfectly all the time like we can with concrete commandments like tithing, or not smoking.  These more measurable, attainable commandments sometimes start creeping up on our culture’s view of importance, surpassing that of love.

But, perhaps Christ really meant what he said, that He really truly wants us to put loving God and others above all the other commandments.  I don’t think it’s coincidence that this Jesus placed this teaching among his strong cautions against hypocrisy. When we put love above every other commandment, it’s very hard to be hypocritical or pharisaical.  Love engenders humility and congruence and integrity, all opposites of hypocrisy. When we are concerned with our ability to love, we are focused on our hearts, not on the outward appearance of righteousness.

Perhaps take some time this week to find measurable ways to love more and prioritize them as you would other things on your to do list.  Maybe brainstorm ways to grow more love for people (or children) who are prickly and hard to love. We are promised in the scriptures that if we pray for love, it will grow inside of us.  Ask God to help you feel more love towards those around you and then try to notice how your heart changes. Charity is defined as the pure love of Christ. Perhaps think about how you can be clear enough so that you can feel God’s love flow through you to someone who needs to feel that powerful force.

Hosanna!  Hosanna in the highest!

The passages for this week contain the story of Palm Sunday.  If you have young children and you didn’t get a chance to act out the story of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, perhaps take time to do that this week.  We do this in our home every Easter and it’s always a favorite; partly because my kids get to use the word ass, but they also get to spread clothing out on the floor, wave makeshift palm branches and shout hosanna.  Maybe read this article from the Friend with your children to help them understand the symbolism of the palm branch.

Perhaps discuss with older children and teenagers, your spouse or a friend the significance of the word Hosanna (from the bible dictionary).  How can we find times and ways to shout “hosanna” in our own lives? What do you think the people were expecting from Jesus as he rode in triumphant at the start of Holy Week?  Do you think they were disappointed by how the week ended? How have your expectations of what Christ will give you differ from what he actually offers?

Story of Zacchaeus

This story, found in Luke 19:1-10, is a great one to think about and discuss as a family.  Read the story and consider the following questions: Who was Zacchaeus? Was he good or bad?  We know he was a tax collector, a notoriously corrupt position in Jesus’ day since they worked for the Romans and collected tax from the Jews.  However, we don’t know if Zacchaeus was corrupt or not. What impresses you about how Zacchaeus responded when Jesus came his way? What stands out to you about how Jesus treated Zacchaeus?  Have you been surprised to find goodness in a place where you judged it wouldn’t be? Was Zacchaeus changed by Christ’s ability to love him, or to see his heart? What can we learn from this story?

Zaccheus is a powerful reminder that Christ is intent on seeing and bringing out the light and goodness in people.  How can you follow this example? How can you change the way you are seeing those around you and replace judgement with love?

You could use these two engaging videos here and here to help children understand and think about the story of Zacchaeus.  

Mantras to post or memorize for this week

Each week we’re trying to encourage each family member to pick a short phrase or verse to repeat to ourselves.  This has been one of the most powerful things we’ve done. We’ve found that the process of searching out a phrase gets us all into the scriptures for the week in a different way.  It helps us to search them for meaning that will help with the real life problems we’re currently facing or anticipating for the week. And it’s an extra bonus if we find moments to remember this phrase or verse as we go through our daily living.  

We’ve found that these mantras are most effective when we follow up with our children, maybe during a meal or while driving to check in and see if they’ve found one and if they’ve put it to use in their lives.   We’ve also found that we all internalize this better if we can create a little visual to put up in our rooms or on the fridge. Maybe an older child can help a younger one to identify something and post it.

And this isn’t just for kids, I’ve found that this is a way to really bring the power of Christ words into my own life.  

There are so many good ones this week!  Take a look at this sampling from this week, these are POWERFUL ideas, each carrying with it capacity to really change our thoughts and actions and bring us closer to Jesus.  

  • Hosanna, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest! (Matt 21:9)
  • And the blind and lame came into the temple: and he healed them. (Matt 20:14)
  • How soon the fig tree withered away. (Matt 20:20)
  • All things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. (Matt 20:22)
  • Love the Lord Thy God and thy Neighbour as thyself. (Matt 22:38-39)
  • On Love hangs all the law and the prophets. (Matt 22:40)
  • What think ye of Christ? (Matt 22:42)
  • Observe and Do (Matt 23:3)
  • He that is the greatest among you shall be your servant. (Matt 23:11)
  • He that shall humble himself shall be exalted (Matt 23:12)
  • Don’t “strain at a gnat and swallow a camel” (Matt 23:24)
  • Cleanse first that which is within the cup, then the outside of them may be clean also. (Matt 23:26)
  • How oft would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not. (Matt 23:37)
  • What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye shall receive them, and ye shall have them. ( Mark 11:24)
  • Zacchaeus made haste and came down, and received him joyfully. (Luke 19:6)
  • The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10)
  • For He is not a God of the dead, but of the living; for all live unto him.  (Luke 20:38)
  • Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes (Luke 20:46)
  • The poor always ye have with you: but me ye have not always. (John 12:8)
  • Fear not daughter of Sion; behold, they King cometh (John 12:15)
  • He that loveth his life shall lose it. (John 12:25)
  • For this cause come I into this hour. (John 12:27)
  • And If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto me. (John 12:32)
  • Walk while ye have the Light. (John 12;35)
  • Believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. (John 12:36)
  • For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:43)
  • I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth in me should not abide in darkness. (John 12: 46)
  • I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. (John 12:47)

Discussions on Real World Application of Jesus’ teachings.

Since our children are all getting to the age where they can engage in meaningful conversation and debate, we are trying hard to have dinner or car discussions, and sometimes evening bedside chats to get a little deeper into the real world application of the lesson principles.  I’ve included lots of questions above to discuss together, but here are a few other things that might be engaging to teens and older kids. Keep in mind that the more ownership you can give them in these discussions, the more engaged they’ll be. Perhaps let them lead the discussions.  

  • What do you think of the parable in Luke 19 of the ten servants?  What does it teach us about abundance and scarcity? (Luke 19) How would you react if you were the different characters in the story?  Can you think of similar situations in your own life? How do you, or those around you react to these types of situations?
  • Luke 19 – what do you think Jesus means by answering the Pharisees that if he quiets his disciples the stones would immediately cry out?   What kind of connection does the Savior have with the earth? Can you think of other times in the scriptures when the earth cries out?
  • Why do you think the pharisees have such a hard time accepting the parables that Jesus is preaching?  Are they defensive? prideful? How can we make our hearts open to hearing things that might be hard to hear, things that might help us correct our course? .
  • In John 12:1-8 we read about Mary washing Jesus’ feet and anointing them with costly ointment.  Judas is upset by this and questions whether or not it was a good use of this costly commodity. What does this story teach us about service to the savior?  What does it teach us about Judas and Mary? John tell us that Mary used a pound of costly ointment and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair.  He also includes that the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Is there an air around those who serve selflessly and give their very best to the savior? Can you think of someone who serves in this way?  How does their service affect the atmosphere around them?

Good luck this week!  I’m assuming your lives and homes are similar to ours, a continual cycle of trial and error.  Some good weeks, some bad weeks. We’ve found that when we focus on what we’ve gotten right then we have more motivation to keep at it, despite the setbacks.  This is what mortality is for, to gain grit and depth by living fully, honestly, openly. By trying and falling short and recognizing over and over again that we need to yoke our efforts with the Savior.  When we do, He augments our strivings, multiplies our offerings. He will do this for us as we work to learn and teach His gospel in our homes.