Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Home: Heaven on Earth?

"We  have been trying to impress upon parents the need of paying more attention to their children, having a little more of the spirit of the gospel in their homes, a little more unity and a little more faith; a little more responsibility religiously, spiritually on the part of the fathers; also, of the mothers; more of the teaching of the gospel in the home.
"To parents in the Church we say: Love each other with all your hearts.  Keep the moral law and live the gospel.  Bring up your children in light and truth; teach them the saving truths of the gospel; and make your home a heaven on earth, a place where the Spirit of the Lord may dwell and where righteousness may be enthroned in the heart of each member."   (Joseph Fielding Smith)
This is a direct quote from last Sunday's Relief Society (the Women's Auxiliary in the LDS Church) lesson.  So much stands out in my quest to create HOME in a new place and I thought I'd share some of those thoughts.  The quote is from a talk given sometime prior to President Smith's death in 1972.  That it's still relevant and repeated in current counsel today speaks to the enduring nature of family as central to all we are and hope to be!  And besides I love a list as a way to both check up on myself and organize new ideas for how I can do better, so here are the key points as a bulleted list:

  • Pay attention to your children (and your spouse!)
  • Have more unity and faith
  • Take more responsibility for the spiritual welfare of your family
  • Love each other
  • Keep the moral law
  • Teach the gospel in the home
  • Really live the gospel (every single day)
  • Make your home into your own "Heaven on Earth"
  • Create a home where God's Spirit will be comfortable
  • Enthrone righteousness in the heart of every family member

Angel by Jim Shore
 Being a practical person I can appreciate the practicality of the gospel and know that many of the things that make a good spiritual home are the same as make it comfortable and comforting and beautiful and desirable in the worldly sense, too.  I want my home to be a haven from life's problems... a place where we want to spend our time... a place where others feel welcome and safe and wanted and cared for.

With that in mind, I'm drawn back to President Smith's list.

Pay attention.   Who doesn't love to be heard when they speak?  Is it not the epitome of feeling loved when someone takes the time to actually listen to you and pay attention to what you want and need?  Who better to spend that energy on than your family?  Get to know them.  Get to know what they like, what they are doing during their days, what their goals are.  Show your love by being involved!

Show unity and faith.  Things are so much easier when you're pulling in the same direction...  Sometimes when Derek and I have argued, more than once because I felt unheard and assumed he wanted something different because he was ignoring me, I've said that.  We really need to have a united front - to give the same message of love to the world and each other.  When everyone else sees you as rock solid it gives you more reasons to be rock solid and not disappoint their faith in you.

Take responsibility for the spiritual welfare of your family.  This is a tough one because you can only teach so much and then you have to realize the other person, be it a child or a spouse, has the agency to make their own choice about what they believe and how they express that belief.  But no matter what, you can lead by example and live what you believe!  And you can always provide opportunities for all members of your household to experience the spiritual.

Love each other.  To me this isn't so much about the big overt acts as the small simple things that make the other people in your household feel loved.  The random text or email or phone call just to say "I'm thinking about you" is a welcome demonstration of love.  And I feel very loved when Derek indulges my appetite for Mexican food even though he dislikes 99% of what a Mexican restaurant serves.

Keep the moral law.  Rules create boundaries meant to keep us safe.  And safe is a much happier place than when you are hanging over a precipice ready to take a death defying plunge into the unknown.  We all have an innate sense of right and wrong.  And sadly, a lust to test boundaries and see just how much we can get away with.  We need to recognize them, instead for what they are, and be happy to play by the rules.  Sustained joy is far superior to moments of adrenalin rush!!

Teach the gospel in the home.  If family is the central unit of Heaven, as I believe, then it makes sense that it is the central unit of our earthly societies.  And it makes sense that home is the best place to teach the gospel.  Take it, not just as a responsibility, but as a joyful right to teach your children, spouse, extended family and friends how to really live the gospel.

Really live the gospel every single day.  Maybe I'm just simple-minded... but it's too hard for me to be one person on Sunday and someone else during the week.  That's just too many details to keep straight and remember who knows what lie and what's the next one that will sound congruent to that storyline.  Because if you live as a religious person on Sunday and then go out to lie and cheat and steal during the week you are lying to yourself and everyone else you come in contact with.  I know what I believe.  And that's how I live, or at least I try my best to live up to that ideal, every day.

Make your home into "Heaven on Earth."  Imagine what Heaven is physically like.  Is it clean and orderly?  Are the "many rooms" in Heavenly Father's mansion comfortable, well arranged for conversation, and beautifully decorated?  How are they decorated?  Maybe I'm overly imaginative, but that's where I try to draw inspiration in pulling my home together.  I ask myself "Is this a room that invites a little bit of Heaven onto Earth?  Is it a haven from my worldly cares?"  When I lived in Utah, I knew a family who took that even a step farther and patterned their living room on the Celestial Room in the Salt Lake Temple.  They used similar furnishings, had custom millwork created to bring the moldings and wood details to scale for their home, lovingly kept it immaculately clean and they treated it as a most special and sacred place... one where they felt God would be comfortable joining them in a conversation.

Create a home where God's Spirit will be comfortable.  Along the same lines as imagining what our future Heavenly home might look like and trying to duplicate it, I think the art we choose to display can either enhance or detract.  In some way, I'm trying to display a scripture quote (and it might change from time to time) and an artwork piece depicting Jesus in every room.  Some of them might be small and visible only if you know to look for it, but I know it's there and it's a reminder to me.  I have portrait style pictures, figures like a carved olive wood piece a friend sent me from Jerusalem and even a pewter collector spoon with a nativity on the handle.  I also choose to play gospel-oriented music.  There are many Christian radio stations to choose from now, as well as playlists you create for your iPod or even just on youtube.com.  I think it's calming.  So much so that when I'm suddenly exposed to a Top 100 station I often feel assaulted and disoriented.

Enthrone righteousness in the heart of every family member.  When the rest of your family sees that you are happy, they wonder what you are doing and will ask and try to do the same things themselves.  They want to share in your happiness.  You have to lead by example, provide opportunities to learn about God's ways and always, no matter what, love people.  What you can't do is force them to live a set of rules you impose.  Remember each person is meant to be 'an agent unto himself' and he (or she) has the right to choose what they believe and how they act on it.  It's ok to hate the sin, but always love the sinner!

(Kind of as a side note, I wanted to share this tribute given by his wife, Ethel:  "You ask me to tell you of the nam I know.  I have often thought when he is gone people will say, 'He is a good man, sincere, orthodox, etc.'  They will speak of him as the public knows him; but the man they have in mind is very different from the man I know.  The man I know is a kind, loving husband and father whose greatest ambition in life is to make his family happy, entirely forgetful of self in his efforts to do this.  He is the man that lulls to sleep the fretful child, who tells bedtime stories to the little ones, who is never too tired or too busy to sit up late at night or to get up early in the morning to help the older children solve perplexing school problems.  When illness comes the man I know watches tenderly over the afflicted one and waits upon him.  It is their father for whom they cry, feeling his presence a panacea for their ills.  It is his hands that bind up the wounds, his arms that give courage to the sufferer, his voice that resonates with them gently when they err, until it becomes their happiness to do the thing that will make him happy...

"The man I know is unselfish, uncomplaining, considerate, thoughtful, sympathetic, doing everything within his power to make life a supreme joy for his loved ones.  That is the man I know."

Wow!  If you're looking for an example of someone to emulate (or searching for the greatest husband ever!) he sets the bar pretty darned high!!)

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