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Cover image: “The Good Samaritan” by Dan Burr.
I’m finding the longer I sit with this new paradigm for home-centered learning, the more I’m feeling the need to lean on the Lord. As we get further into this, there are hundreds of amazing resources being generated all over the internet. When prayerfully led, these resources can be helpful, but my husband and I are trying to remind ourselves that God is the first place we need to to turn when thinking about how to implement the weekly teachings in our lives and in our homes. And we need to turn to Him with questions in mind.
The questions to ask God are not so much how we can teach our children the principles in the lesson for the week. Instead we are trying to ask God to help us know how to use the scripture passages for the week, to make progress against the pressing, immediate challenges in our lives and in our family. How can we use these principles to help our ten-year-old manage her rage? How can these stories help our teenage son be more aware of those around him? How can Christ’s words here help me to develop more patience? How can applying these things help me to understand my spouse and support him better? How can this teaching help our daughter to create healthier thought patterns? How can this doctrine help us manage all the car fighting? How can we model the relevance of these teachings in a modern world? How can these truths help us to dig a deeper well within?
In other words, instead of starting with a scripture or a weekly lesson and looking for where and how to apply it, we want to start with a recognized family or individual concern or need and ask God to guide us as we look for scriptures or lesson principles that apply to them.
Answers to these questions will come as we seek personal revelation for ourselves and our families.
This week’s lesson is packed with practical teachings that, if embraced, could have a powerful impact on our day-to-day actions, thoughts, emotional well-being and family temperament. We’re hoping that our study and celebration of Holy Week and Easter will prime our hearts and those of our children to really feel closer to the Savior and want to embrace these powerful teachings for this week of forgiveness, choosing the better part, asking good questions, becoming like little children, going after the one sheep and helping our neighbors.
I’ve offered here some ideas of things you might want to do or think about or focus on in your own study or with your family this week. But I offer them with two caveats. First, please know that it is impossible to implement all of these ideas in a week without going crazy. We won’t do them all in our family, in fact, there are weeks when we barely get through one or two concepts. When I asked my 14-year-old yesterday how we’re doing in regards to ‘Come, Follow Me’ she gave us a B-. It’s ok to still be working things out, to do better some weeks than others, to be continually changing and re-adjusting and to just fail sometimes.
Second, these articles are meant to supplement in a small way the Church’s Come, Follow Me curriculum, which is meant to supplement your own personal revelation that God gives you directly to know and meet the needs of your individual and unique situation. I love how the very first direction given in the CFM manual is to prayerfully read through the scriptures for the week and “pay attention to the quiet promptings of the Holy Ghost. He will tell you how these teachings and stories apply to you. Record the impressions you receive.”
On your own or with your spouse prayerfully consider questions such as:
- What are our children struggling with this week?
- What bad habits do we need to help changing?
- What thought or behavior patterns are damaging to our mental health?
- How can these truths help us overcome our challenges and progress?
- What are the principles in this Chapter that speak to us?
- Why are they relevant in our lives?
- How can we model using these principles?
- How can they help us draw closer to Christ?
For the Individuals and the Whole Family:
Importance of Asking Questions.
During His ministry, Jesus seems to be constantly asked questions. Often it was the Pharisees or others who asked questions to trap and snare Christ, but the questions in these chapters come mostly from His followers; honest seekers who are earnestly trying to understand this new and revolutionary Gospel that Jesus is teaching in word and deed. In response to these questions, Christ gives us powerful, but maybe unexpected, stories and doctrine that, when followed, can alter our attitudes and turn our lives towards the light and happiness that God wants for us.
Christ is asked: Who is the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven? Who is our Neighbor? How oft shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? What shall I do to inherit eternal life?
Similarly in our lives and those of our children, asking good questions to God is how we gain the insight, guidance and revelation that God wants to give us. As we study this lesson and discuss it with our children we may want to examine these questions that Christ is asked. Think about what kinds of questions you might ask the Savior and what his answers might be. Are His answers unexpected? Are they a little hard to swallow? Do they differ from what your natural instinct may be? Understanding how to ask God important questions and hear his answers (no matter how unexpected), might be one of the most valuable lessons we can learn, and teach our children.
Pick a verse or phrase to repeat as a mantra throughout the 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 our kids and ourselves 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 they internalize this better if they create a little visual to put up in their room. 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’s words into my own life.
Like I said, it’s best to search the chapters to come up with something that really speaks to you and encourage your children to do the same. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, strength and mind. (Luke 10:27)
- Love thy neighbour as thyself (Luke 10:27)
- This do, and thou shalt live. (Luke 10:28)
- Go, and do thou likewise. (Luke 10:37)
- One thing is needful: choose the good part. (Luke 10:41-42)
- Peace be to this house. (Luke 10:5)
- Nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:18)
- Become as little children. (Matt 18:3)
- If thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off. (Matt 18:8)
- Jesus is come to save that which is lost. (Matt. 18:11)
- Jesus seeketh that which is gone astray. (Matt. 18: 12)
- Forgive until 70 times 7 (Matt. 18:22)
- Have compassion on thy felloservant, even as I had pity on thee. (Matt 18:33)
Are we Choosing that “good part?”
I have always loved the story of Mary and Martha, especially after having studied more about these two women in other stories in the New Testament. They are real, round, dimensional people. We can see ourselves in both their strengths and their weaknesses. There are times when Mary chooses the better part, but also times when Martha demonstrates more faith. To me this feels reflective of the nature of mortality: sometimes we get it dead on and choose the good part, other times we’re “careful and troubled about many things” and we miss the point. Christ doesn’t condemn us either way, but he does gently guide us to that which is needful in each moment, in each season of our lives.
To me, this story is a great reminder to make space in our lives for God. To sit at His feet at least long enough to get a glimpse of His perspective and awareness. To stop and be still long enough to connect with the Divine and let him show us what, in that day, or week, or season, is the good part. When we have first made a connection with God other things that we are “careful and troubled about” come into place and we can consecrate all of our efforts, even the day to day mundane parts, to God.
Perhaps this week give some thought to the things you are careful and troubled about. Spend some quiet, still time with God to get a small glimpse into His awareness and let Him show you what the “good part” is for you in your life right now. This is a good principle to teach and model to older children as well, especially as life starts to crowd in on them. Maybe discuss this story with your older children and help them think about how they can make space for God and let Him help them drop some of their worries and choose the “good part.”
Ponder what Christ is saying about children.
I have a friend who recently told me that in the last few months he’s decided that he actually likes children. Surprised, I asked him what created this change. He said the only thing he is doing differently is trying more diligently to be like Jesus. It’s hard to follow Jesus’ teachings and example and not feel an affinity and deep love for children.
Christ’s deep love for children is everywhere in scripture, it’s no wonder that when his disciples asked him who was the greatest, he answered by bringing a child into their view and talking about how important it is for us to become like children. Ponder what this means to you. What parts of yourself should you train to be more childlike? Christ gives us a powerful promise that if we receive a child in His name than we receive Jesus. How can we better receive the children in our lives?
Perhaps thinking more about how we help and perceive children in our lives can help us to understand how Jesus and Heavenly Father help and see us. I love this painting by Brian Kershisnik called “Jesus and the Angry Babies.” It’s fantastic on so many different levels. It’s so different from the typical paintings we see of Christ holding perfectly peaceful and well behaved children. Aside from making me feel like I’m not alone as I struggle to deal with my own angry babies, it is a powerful reminder that we are all angry babies at times. And that’s ok. We all know that children are not perfect, they are often irritable little people who haven’t developed much impulse management. When Jesus tells us to be like a child, he didn’t mean to for us to be perfect, he specifies that he wants us to be humble like a child. He’s expecting our anger and imperfection, but if we’re humble he can scoop us up onto His knees and hold us through all of our dark, jealous, irritated and frustrated childishness.
For Younger Children:
I’m sure you’ve discovered, as we have, that the best way to really help younger children internalize new information is through hands-on activities. Their brains are wired to learn through doing and experimenting and through using all of their senses. There’s something about making things physical and tangible that seems to sink ideas into kids’ understanding, especially young kids.
- Acting things out has always been a big hit in our family when trying to conceptualize gospel stories and principles. Consider acting out the story of the good Samaritan or Unmerciful servant. Let your kids take turns playing different parts while you narrate. Perhaps come up with a modern day version of each story. Let your kids take ownership, what situations might Jesus have used to help convey the same messages in today’s world? Help your kids think about how they can be a “good samaritan” in their day to day life? How can they show mercy and forgiveness in the situations they face?
- Show your children the bible videos illustrating teachings from this lesson:
For the Good Samaritan click here.
For Christ’s teaching on forgiving 70×7 click here.
For Christ’s teaching on becoming as a little child click here.
- Show your kids the art images in this article or from other sources (a quick google image search for any of these stories or teachings brings up lots of great art). Talk about what they notice in the paintings. Ask questions about facial expressions, what they imagine the people are doing or thinking. My kids especially like the painting with Jesus and the angry babies. Help them think about and process what these images can teach them.
- Help your children illustrate (paint, draw, use clip art, sculpt, build with legos) the key parts of one of the parables from the lesson.
- Talk about forgiveness. Discuss what it means to forgive. Point out times when your children have easily forgiven others. Talk about how it feels to forgive and be forgiven. Perhaps help your kids do the math of 70×7. Perhaps actually have them count out that many seeds or beans to give them an idea of how liberal Jesus wants us to be with our forgiveness.
For Older Children and Teenagers:
Encourage older children and teenagers to read these chapters on their own. They’re short this week! Before reading, perhaps have them think about things that are troubling them in their own lives and pray for God to help them to find some answers in the teachings of Jesus in these chapters.
We’re trying to remember that the way to really help older children and teens to internalize and really plant the gospel in their hearts is by helping them see the relevance and real world application of the Gospel. The more we can model how we’re using these teachings as tools in our lives, in a real, authentic, imperfect way, the easier it will be for our children to see how they can apply them to help improve their own imperfect efforts.
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. Often the most successful teaching in our home happens when we seize an unexpected opportunity to teach important principle amidst the chaos of everyday life.
The following are some ideas for questions you could use to get a discussion going with older kids. Please note that there are way too many questions here to discuss during one sitting. Pick the ones that are most relevant/interesting to your children, or let them pick or come up with their own. Also, remember that It’s ok not to have the answers, even after discussing them. It’s important to model to our children that it’s ok to leave questions unanswered and that wondering and pondering on tricky questions is not only ok, but an important part of our learning.
- Why does Jesus ask us to become like little children? What did He mean by this? Should we not progress and learn and grow up? What is the difference between being childlike and childish? Can you think of examples in your own life when you or someone around you showed strength in being childlike? Or created problems by being childish?
- Discuss the parable of the unmerciful servant. Maybe look at the drawings above, painted by turn of the century Swiss painter Eugène Burnand. How might you have handled a similar situation? Have you faced a time when you were forgiven of something? How did it feel? How does it feel to extend mercy and forgiveness to others? Why is it so hard to forgive sometimes? What examples can you think of in the news or the world around you of extreme forgiveness? How does forgiveness make you free? How does holding grudges and seeking revenge affect happiness?
- Christ uses a shepherd analogy in Matthew 18. What does it mean to you that the Good Shepherd will leave the 99 and go after the 1? Is there a time when you feel like God has come after you to lead you to safety? When you have been lost and he has “saved you?” What does this mean we should do if we’re trying to truly follow Jesus? How can you apply this in your life?
- Jesus tells us in Matt 18:7-14 that if there is something about yourself that offends you, you should cast it out. What does He mean by this? Are there times when you or those around you have or have not done this? What has been the consequences? How does it feel to root out a part of yourself? Is it easy? Is it worth it?
- Discuss the story of Mary and Martha.Who do you identify with in this story? Why? How can you connect with God to choose the good part?
- Discuss the story of the Good Samaritan. How does this apply to things happening at school or with friends? Describe a few scenarios that you’ve experienced in your own life, in a movie or book, in the news where someone has acted as a good samaritan. Is it always easy to play this role? How does it feel to help someone who might be perceived as an enemy?
Doers of the word challenge.
- Think of a grudge that you’re holding onto and make a concerted effort this week to forgive that person their offense.
- Create a “good samaritan” award. Give it to a family member who finds the best opportunity to serve someone around them.
- Make a Martha list: a list of all the things you’re “careful and troubled” about. Take the list to God and ask him to help you to see clearly which items on the list are the “good part” and which you can stop worrying about.
- Consider ways you can become more childlike. Or find ways that you can connect with and help the children in your life.
- Ask God if there is part of your personality or behavior that is offensive to Him or to the Spirit. Ask God to help you to “pluck” it out and replace it with something that will help you to be happier and closer to the Lord.
A final reminder: Do not be overwhelmed. I’ve just thrown a lot of ideas your way. You can’t and shouldn’t try to do everything. This article represents ALL the thoughts I have had about teaching these two chapters, and I certainly don’t feel as though I can do all of them. Remember that you are the only expert on your kids. Ask God to inspire you as you pick and choose ideas and methods that feel right for you and your kids. Likely you will develop your own approaches for your own situation–and those will be the best ideas of all.