The Homey Side of 2-Hour Church

So I was one of those people who dismissed the rumors of the Church of Latter-Day Saints’ weekly church session moving to a two-hour block. I had heard of people say they’ve heard the rumor for decades and my brother who works in the church office denied any substance to the lore. Then again, he is known for messing with people.

In the time previous to the announcement people discussed the time change. Some supported it, others thought it would be terrible. I thought about it and figured whatever, just let me know when my meetings are. The announcement was a fun bit of modern history, but even then I wasn’t particularly emotional over the change. Again, just let me know when I’m supposed to be at church.

Yet when I woke up this morning and thought over the matter, I felt the tiniest bit of sadness, given greater dimension as I read on social media those who shared the good and the bad for them regarding the change. I think I am doing no more than saying farewell to the scheduling side of a little church era. For others, they may feel more.

I see much good in this. I also admit I see where the challenges may arise for many.

 

What strikes me the most is the focus upon the family. I am a believer in the community of a church. To meet with our brothers and sisters in the gospel can strengthen our faith and bolster us in times of need. I think of the old story of the minister who sought out a man who had been missed in attendance: when the man explained his faith would be just fine on his own, the minister drew a coal from the fire, where it sizzled for a short time before burning out. I believe that church community can be viewed in a way as an extension of the gospel family and that we truly do need each other. But it is our immediate family that matters even more, that is the foundation of the greater community of families, and our prophet is wise to direct us back toward them.

In my years of rambling over the internet, I’ve seen people from deeply Christian families who never attend church. They even have a term for themselves, I think. They worship at home, deliver instruction on the gospel at home, pray together at home. I am happy for them and I even have a little dash of spiritual envy of what they have. If my Amish romance novels are anything to be believed, even some of the Amish do not attend church services even weekly. The weekly church is good, wonderful, arguably even necessary, but we’ve always more or less known the foundation of our gospel growth best come from the home.

Many have given thanks for the two-hour block as the three-hour block is so hard. A close friend shared this might be what it takes for her family to become more active as the three-hour block was so difficult for them for a number of reasons. I’ve never struggled too much with it, but as a teacher mom, I can’t help but be grateful for an extra hour with my family. Perhaps the day will feel more restful with the absence of an hour, or rather, the gain of that spiritual time with just my family, wherever we stick it in the week.

How long as been going to church been the easy thing to do? Putting the crutch of teaching the gospel on the local ward building as families head over there? I’m sure many families do their best and many of them do that best very well, but this thought leaves me in awe, that we are to do more in teaching our own families the gospel. What will this mean in the future? What little things have we been ignoring?

Of course I realize this will have its troubles for some. Part-member or part-active families. Families where the subject of the Church is troublesome. These families had the blessing of attending church, of having that extra help in guiding themselves or their children.

Maybe this is a hurtle that is good and necessary. I’ve been reading the book Boundaries after hearing everyone speak so much about it. I didn’t go looking for anything particular, but the thoughts in it were worthy ones and a common theme was, well, creating boundaries. Sometimes that meant hard things and sad feelings. In families that struggle with differing views of the gospel, perhaps this is the time, however awkward, to reestablish a commitment and a pattern of how the gospel is viewed in the home. Perhaps nothing in practice will change, but a heartfelt conversation can be had. Feelings and views shoved to the side for a previous pattern will be put forth. There’s a good chance that for many families this may be a perfect time to reconnect, to share things precious to each.

Which comes back down to the home. We are being reminded of a big responsibility we all have. We are changing a pattern, waking many of us up to what we need. And, yes, we are being handed the program we need, so we’re not being abandoned to the wolves. We have been reminded to be active in our communities and families, and we best take that seriously.

We must strengthen our homes. We must make room for the gospel in those homes. We must grow closer to our families and recall our responsibility to them. We must take this time to build the love we have for each other.

Yes, I think I do find the two-hour block a good thing.

Banana-Zucchini Bread with Pediasure

I suppose I’m pretty much desperate to use up the Pediasure Jade is so weird about drinking. However, I have had recent success with mixing a little into her Ensure Clear. She will get those calories. Oh, she will.

I also stuck some in some banana-zucchini bread. It wound up awesome. The flavor from the Pediasure works here to flavor the bread to make it a nice sweet treat.

1 cup of sugar

Half a stick of butter, softened

1 cup of grated zucchinni

1 cup of mashed bananas

1 bottle of vanilla Pediasure

2 eggs

2 cups of flour

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1 cup of chocolate chips

1/4 cup of chopped nuts.

I combine the wet ingredients. I fold it gently into the combined dry ingredients. Bake this at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

The Pediasure adds some of the job of milk and fat, so if you don’t have a kid needing calories you could skip the butter.

The result was a tasty, slightly sweet and very moist banana bread I could get my kid to eat.

When People are Just Awesome

I had a bit of a wild weekend. Friday, I was desperate to go see “The House with a Clock in its Walls” because the book terrified me as a small child. For some heaven-opposed reason, I chose to use my free movie passes and take the girls. Ruby, the elder, was wonderful. Jade, after about 40 minutes started jabbering. As I prepared to take her out, someone swore at us. My gosh, it was a chatty toddler, not something truly offensive. Yes, I was ashamed of myself and certain to do right by movie theatre manners (having been subject to chatty kids before) but why must you swear at my kids, man?

However, in my hurry to remove the chatty Jade, I forgot Ruby. She had not followed the instruction to follow me out, and I was a little unsure of how to reenter the theatre with the still-jabbering Jade.

Fortunately, after a few minutes, another kind mom walked her out. I was still grumping about the other guy, and it took me some time to recognize the awesome help of that kind woman.

The next day… yikes. I found myself unnerved for other reasons. We’re still new to the whole cystic fibrosis thing, and because of my new job we had switched insurances and were still waiting for those wrinkles to be ironed out. In short, we were waiting on a medication delivery, particularly the enzyme Creon, that couldn’t be delivered. The pharmacy techs said they’d send it to a local pharmacy on Saturday, who would call us. Well, after waiting and waiting for a call, I called them… to find out they were closed.

And we were virtually out of Creon. Which is what helps Jade digest food. I was not up for trying a fat and protein- free set of days when she is supposed to work on gaining weight!

So I complained on a Facebook group. My intent was to ask for suggestions of what to do next, but it wind up as a complaint.

Next thing I know, I have several offers in the area to supply with some emergency doses and I’m driving to my husband’s office (a handy mid-way meeting spot) for a “drug deal”. Even more awesome, my mom found Creon at her house.

People are generally awesome.

Relief Society Lesson: The Worth of Souls is Great in the Sight of God

Here I share my thoughts and questions I had for my own class.

 

How did Nephi see the Lamanites? How did the sons of Mosiah see the Lamanites? (This might be written on the board)

To answer, we read Mosiah 28:1-3 and Alma 26:23-26 and Doctrine & Covenants 18:10-16.

  • What can we learn about how God views all His children?

Sister Kristin L. Matthews gave a devotional where she spoke about value. She even gave the dictionary definitions of the word. She says

a thing’s value is contingent on ideas of estimation, desirability, likeability, and worthiness. It is at the center of the word evaluate—to analyze—yet often we do not ask the questions, Who determines the system of value by which we are considering, classifying, and ranking people or things? Who determines the mechanism of evaluation and the indices of what is evaluated? Who sets the “standard of equivalence” that says some things have greater worth than others?

Please take a moment to consider these questions for yourself. How does society place value on others? How does your community? How do various circles of family, friends, or associates?

Sister Matthews then reminds us “Conversely, God’s system of valuing us promotes connection, compassion, and love. We are His children. He loves us unconditionally, eternally, and unchangingly. Our worth is infinite because we are His daughters and sons. No one spirit is more valuable than the other.”

 

Now, please consider this truth in the light of how you might interact with others. In the spirit of our recent topic of lessons, how might this apply to ministering?

As we know, we minister for many reasons. I personally believe ministering is doing what Christ would have us do, reaching out in love and service to those around us with the fervent desire of helping them as they grow in their testimonies and become closer to Christ and the gospel. But if am to believe that, to truly believe that, who am I to set values on others?

We can help others and help ourselves grow in the gospel, to change our hearts, because of the very real power of the Atonement. I seem to recall in a prior lesson I taught we had a discussion how some of us struggle with accepting the Atonement for ourselves: Sure, the Atonement of course helps you or that person over there, but I’m not so sure about myself. This might be the opposite: I believe the Atonement helps me and you and that person over there and I might say with standard knowledge it helps everyone, but do I truly believe that? Do I believe the Atonement is for all strongly enough that I am willing to do what I can to reach and love others?

I am now going to bring up one of the basic principles of economics: The cost of something is what you give up to get it. Think of what the Atonement means for this.

Elder M. Russell Ballard said the following “I believe that if we could truly understand the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, we would realize how precious is one son or daughter of God. I believe our Heavenly Father’s everlasting purpose for His children is generally achieved by the small and simple things we do for one another. At the heart of the English word atonement is the word one. If all mankind understood this, there would never be anyone with whom we would not be concerned, regardless of age, race, gender, religion, or social or economic standing. We would strive to emulate the Savior and would never be unkind, indifferent, disrespectful, or insensitive to others.”

The scriptures are full of reminders of the importance of one soul. We have the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost money, where people are bound with stubborn determine to find a lost sheep, to find a lost coin. A few weeks back in Gospel Doctrine we read about Jonah and the people of Ninevah who Jonah was all but ready to write off, failing to fully understand how God saw these people.

Now, I don’t mean to suggest certain things. Every person we might minister to or even every person we run into is not necessarily in danger of falling away from the gospel. I don’t think we shoulder the entire burden of bringing others to Christ. I do not want this lesson to be a cautionary tale about how we better do our ministering or else.

Sure, there are many wonderful stories of people who were so seemingly far gone from the gospel that were brought back by a kind work or an act of service. We may even have more tragic stories of those who have yet to be brought back. I don’t even want to fully place the recognition of the worth of others as a sort of prevention. What I would now like to discuss is why it’s so important to we do recognize each other as children of our Father in Heaven.

What are some general thoughts you have on this?

Other questions for discussion:

As we minister or even just interact with others, how do you think a view of their real worth changes how we interact with them?

How would we want others to view us?

What are some of your best qualities? What are the good qualities you see in those you minister to?

How does understanding your individual worth help you want to minister to others?

How can recognizing the worth of others affect our ministering and love?

How can we better the way we view others?

Is it only those who are struggling who deserve our attention?

How can we change by recognizing the value of others and the value of ourselves?

How does ministering and serving others help us in our views of them?

In conclusion, I don’t think ministering is about pitying others, or trying to find that one great conference-talk worthy moment of change. We ought to be making our view of others as close to God’s as we possibly can in this mortal world, and we ought to be working to make that a habit. We do not view others as a project but as brothers and sisters completely worthy of our love no matter where they are in their spirituality and testimony. To me, this idea culminates and wraps up the entire purpose of ministering: viewing others as Christ and our Heavenly Father do.

Coca-Cola Chocolate Chip Cookies with Pediasure

We have had the darndest time getting Jade of the cystic fibrosis to take her Pedisaure. Oh, she’ll take the Ensure Clear without any trouble, but the nice fatty Pediasure is rejected. Since we have several cases, I think I might as well try to sneak it into things. Like baked goods.

Some time ago I discovered a little bit of Coke is an awesome ingredient in chocolate-chip cookies. So… I worked to create a cookie recipe I can dump Pediasure into.

The result was a pretty puffy cookie with a chewy texture, rather reminiscent of a proper pumpkin cookie. It tastes good and I can get my toddler to take Pediasure on the sly.

1 cup of brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 stick of butter

2/3 bottle of vanilla Pediasure

Mix these together until pretty. Then add

1 egg

1/2 cup Coca Cola

Mix again!

Add:

2 3/4 cups of flour

1 tsp of baking soda

1 tsp of salt

Mix until just combined.

Then add the sweet stuff, like

1 cup of chocolate chips

1/2 cup of chopped nuts (totally optional, but I like nuts)

Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.

 

 

So why would vaccination needs be different for each family?

You know, that old line about how you should “pray and study to see if vaccines are right for your family”.

My sister laughs that I am a crunchy hippy. My husband rolls his eyes over it but generally puts up with it. I suppose I do lean a little “crunchy”. I would love to live on a homestead, or at least have a bit of country property. I love cloth diapers. I love “natural” and “green” cleaning supplies. Whole foods strike me as awesome (though I balance that my share of fast food burgers). I buy essential oils every now and then (Butterfly Express because they strike me as a family-owned and fairly local) and even try to use them. I even wonder a little if there is anything to crystals and energies.

I also vaccinate my kids. Yes, yes, I know there are many posts out there on the internet where crunchy parents are defending their right to vaccinate and still be crunchy, but I still get the impression that the general crunchy community doesn’t like vaccinating.

I confess, sometimes I wonder like I wonder about those crystals. Could I be destroying my children by vaccinating them? Could the seeming rise of autism be related to this? Could putting all these things in the body be harmful? Of course, all the anti-vaxxers insist I research, so I read a few things and come to the conclusion I’m probably good with my vaccination tendencies. I’m sure I can read studies, but I also find things that refute anti-vax claims and the studies I do read don’t frighten me against vaccines. Besides, I don’t have a science degree, so I’ll let the professionals do the heavy work for me.

It’s not that I’m altogether frightened by not vaccinating. There seems to be good wisdom in naturally building immune systems and keeping homes healthy. Individually, a nonvaccinated person doesn’t really scare me. With my daughter having cystic fibrosis, I’m more worried about actually sick people, their vaccination status being neither here nor there.

What does bother me the most, however, is the claim that comes in variations but boils down to “Pray and research about it and do what’s right for your family.” The prayer thing is particularly common in crunchy LDS circles (probably similar in other Christian circles). Moms tell me how they prayed about vaccinating and were inspired against it.

Far be it from me to criticize someone’s spiritual inspiration; perhaps God did steer them from vaccinating, who knows. They also likely know their child’s health and physical situation better than I, and perhaps their research pulled up a glaring contraindication with vaccines. I do agree some people best not be vaccinated for their own health.

And certainly far be it from me to question the inspiration God feels like giving others.

Yet something about that line of “Pray and study and do what’s right for your family” doesn’t sit right with me–and this is a line that can be applies to a whole host of things. The average kids who will like the majority pass through vaccinations just fine… why would their parents be inspired to do different things? Why would studying lead to different conclusions? Shouldn’t vaccines be either fine for the majority or dangerous for the majority?

Why such an awkward and hodge-podge middle ground?

I mused this question in a Facebook group once. Ready answer, of course “Pray and study and do what’s right for your family. You have to take care of your family’s needs”. I pressed further “Then why would we come to different conclusions?”

And here’s where I discovered a problem. The answer I received (from anyone not just broken recording of how all families are different) was about how not everyone was at the same spiritual level.

Ouch.

So anyone who takes the vaccination matter to prayer and receives inspiration to indeed vaccinate is bad at receiving revelation. Isn’t “spiritual” enough. Isn’t “woke” enough. Is subject to some cruel prank by God. Is subject to the lesser law because they just aren’t ready to handle the spiritual responsibility of not vaccinating.

It’s really the only conclusion I can come to. And I don’t believe it.

Maybe I’m just too critical of the antivaccine ideology. But I just can’t imagine a scenario where the appropriateness of vaccines would vary so much from family to family. Could I imagine God inspiring a family not to vaccinate for unknown medical reasons? Absolutely. Could I imagine God inspiring a family to vaccinate, again for yet unknown medical reasons? Another absolutely.

You might say that answers my question. Individually, which is ultimately all there is, taking the matter to prayer makes sense. Studying and learning is always good.

But these antivaxxers who say they believe vaxxing is wrong though everyone should do what’s right for their family upend this notion. If vaccinations are truly bad, they are bad for the majority of the population. God expects us to use our brains, and if vaccines are so awful, why do I even need to take the matter to prayer to “see if it’s right for my family”? Yes, all families are different, but not so different vaccine have or not is going to be all over the chart.

Probably because if I were spiritually stronger I would automatically know I shouldn’t vaccinate, I type with sarcasm.

If vaccination is truly wrong for your kids, by all means, keep them safe. I don’t doubt the reality of vaccine injuries. But I trust the studies that have shown vaccines are still just fine for a majority of the population. If I can find a reason my kid shouldn’t be vaccinated, or if I feel a spiritual prompting against vaccinations, I will rethink the vaccination.

But let’s be honest: the “rightness” of vaccines isn’t going to vary so much that to “all families are different”. Vaccines are wrong for some people, that’s true. But for the rest of us? It’s either going to be right or wrong. Vaccines are either good and safe for the majority, or we need to get rid of them. There’s no inbetween.

blue and silver stetoscope

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