Tuesday, August 26, 2014

5 Simple Ways to Keep Christ at the Center During the School Year




Ready or not, the school year is back! If you’re like most people, that means life is about to get a whole lot busier. Whether you’re a working parent trying to balance keeping food on the table, shuttling kids back and forth from their many activities, and keeping up with laundry, dishes, and everything else it takes to maintain a home; a young single adult trying to get through college courses and still have a social life; or a high school student navigating the awkward teenage years and going back and forth between the aforementioned activities that keep your parents’ heads spinning, the increase in secular activity during this time often makes it easy to let some of the seemingly less pressing spiritual aspects slip through the cracks. So how can we balance our various activities and obligations and still keep Christ at the center of our lives and homes during this busy time?

Elder Richard G Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles defines a Christ-centered home as one “where the gospel is taught, covenants are kept, and love abounds.”[i] Below are 5 simple things we can do during the school year to fulfill our many secular responsibilities while still successfully building this kind of home.

 

1.  Prioritize the "Primary Answers"

 

Walk into any LDS church building and ask the first person you see (man, woman, or child) to give you the “primary answers” and I bet they would say—“read your scriptures, pray, and go to church!” A few might even add, “Hold weekly family home evening”. We call these the “Primary” answers because they are some of the first principles that LDS children are taught in their Sunday school classes (referred to as “Primary”)—and for good reason. In the same talk referenced above, Elder Richard G. Scott taught that these activities “are the essential, weight-bearing beams in the construction of a Christ-centered home” and that “without these regular practices it will be difficult to find the desired and much-needed peace and refuge from the world.”[ii] So, making these practices a priority is perhaps the best way to keep our lives and homes centered on Christ during any time of the year. The key word here is “priority”. To really reap the benefits, we have to take care of them first; then everything else will fall into place. As Linda S. Reeves of the Relief Society General Presidency put it, “It is OK if the house is a mess and the children are still in their pajamas and some responsibilities are left undone. The only things that really need to be accomplished in the home are daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening!”[iii]

 

2.  Disconnect to Connect


My wife and I love to go out to eat together. A short time ago we were at a restaurant chatting while we waited for our entrees when I looked over and saw a young man and woman at a two-person table on what seemed like a date. I had to laugh as we watched them for several minutes both staring down into their laps, texting or tweeting or something, not saying a single word to each other. “Wow,” I commented to my wife, “that must be some date.” This kind of thing is typical of the world we live in—one that has been completely overrun by technology. Between our laptops, smart phones, and tablets, technology comes with us wherever we go and it seems like we spend most of our day staring at screens and checking electronic devices. Unfortunately, our compulsion to stay ‘connected’ often distances us from the people right next to us, especially our families, which also inhibits us from developing a home where the Spirit of the Lord dwells. And these kinds of distractions only increase as the school year starts up. The solution? DISCONNECT! The Family Proclamation states, “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities” (emphasis added). So make home time, family time—get off your tablet and have a meal together, or go for a family walk and leave that pesky phone behind. Studies have shown that families that regularly spend this kind of time together, free from technological distractions, reap incredible benefits.[iv]

 

3.  Use Technology to Your Advantage 


At this point, I know what you’re thinking. It’s easy to say we should disconnect from technology, but we’ll eventually have to come back to it. What then? If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right? Well, sort of, but not exactly. Rather than becoming a slave to technology, use it to your advantage! With the great access to information that our devices provide, things like the scriptures and General Conference talks are never more than a finger tap away. Personally, I’ve found that, rather than checking my email first thing when I get into the office, I’m able to better sense the Spirit in my life (and my day goes a whole lot smoother) if I open LDS.org and do my scripture study. Speaking to the youth, Elder Richard G. Scott said, “If you young people would review a verse of scripture as often as some of you send text messages, you could soon have hundreds of passages of scripture memorized. Those passages would prove to be a powerful source of inspiration and guidance by the Holy Ghost in times of need.”[v] The same goes for all of us. While we will inevitably have to use technology for secular things, if we make a point to also use it as a source of spiritual strength (and teach our children to do the same), we are much more likely to have lives and homes that are filled by the Spirit of the Lord.

 

4.  Make Time to Serve

 

In the New Testament, Christ taught, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:24). Coming from the source of all truth and life, it seems to me that this is a pretty awesome promise. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in our own lives that we forget why we’re really here and what He would have us do. But making the sacrifice to get outside of ourselves and serve is one of the quickest and surest ways to bring things back into perspective. While we can’t all volunteer at soup kitchens or work with Habitat for Humanity every day, making the effort to engage in service projects at least every few months can be incredibly edifying. Connecting this with point #2, this time can be even more beneficial if we also use it as an opportunity to bond with other members of our family. Serving together will help to “knit [our hearts] together in unity and in love one towards another” (Mosiah 18: 21). Further connecting this to point #3, with tools like the Internet, serving doesn’t even always require leaving our home. For instance, doing family history work together and preparing names for proxy ordinances in the Temple is one way we can regularly serve inside our homes, while also learning things that will bring us closer together. Whatever type of service you decide on, though, the most important thing is just to do it; because “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).

 

5.  Set Spiritual SMART Goals

 

We had a tradition in my family growing up where, every year at the start of school, all the kids would sit down with my Dad to set goals for what we wanted to accomplish and receive father’s blessings. When I was really young, my goals usually consisted of things like “be a good boy at school” or “don’t tease my little sister so much”, but as I matured I learned to set more specific goals that would stretch me to develop myself in every aspect of my life—academic, social, physical, and spiritual. Comparing the times when I have set goals to others when I’ve failed to do so has reinforced for me the truth of the anonymous quote, “An unwritten goal is merely a wish”. So it is with this list. It’s one thing to say you want to keep Christ at the center of your life and home, but it’s a whole other thing to actually make it happen. Setting goals related to each of the previous points (or others that are more pertinent to your specific situation) can push you to follow through. And beyond simply setting goals, making sure that they’re SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based) or even SMARTER (by regularly Evaluating and Reevaluating those goals) can help you reach those goals completely and consistently.

So now that you’ve gotten through this list, and hopefully had some ideas of your own, are you ready to take the next step? The school year isn’t going to wait for you, go make it happen!

For more on this topic, I’d recommend you read:

2 comments:

  1. Great article. These are some great insights for Mormons and others (like me). Thanks!

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  2. Well said, Joseph! I love these reminders and I shared the goodness! :) ~Jenn Hough

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