GCBC Week 13: “Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear” by Elder L. Tom Perry

Merry Christmas.  This week we will be studying Elder Perry’s talk about having the courage to bear testimony and help people understand who we are.  After spending the last while reflecting on the gifts we’ve received from the Savior, this talk seems a perfect way to consider how to give a gift to Him— by sharing His gospel.  If you remember, he spoke about how we do temple open houses to invite people who are unfamiliar with the Church to learn more about it.  He then teaches us to use the same model as we share information with others.

Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear by Elder L. Tom Perry

“There are a number of things that we can do—that you can do—to advance an understanding of the Church. If we do it with the same spirit and if we conduct ourselves in the same way we do when we host a temple open house, our friends and our neighbors will come to understand us better. Their suspicions will evaporate, negative stereotypes will disappear, and they will begin to understand the Church as it really is.”

What about this talk stood out to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

To anyone who is checking out GCBC for the first time, the goal is to read one General Conference talk a week and discuss it together as an on-line “book club.” If you want to learn more, go here, and join the discussion.

Stuff I love about Christmas (so far)

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I know that Christmas can be a stressful time; for me, the most stressful part is always the finances– struggling to find the balance between what I would like to do or get for people and the realistic constraints of my budget.  I don’t always succeed, and then I cause myself undue stress by making things tighter than they should be.

But despite the money tug, I love Christmas time.  I love the feeling.  The excitement.  The spirit of it all.  I admit that it’s getting harder and harder to find amid all the ridiculous “If you can’t get your wife a new car or a diamond something for Christmas, you’ve somehow failed” marketing mentality.  Because –really– that’s just dumb. I actually enjoy some of the bustle and lines at stores, and I feel like most of the people are sincerely out to find things to show love to people they care about.

I love nativity sets.

I love Christmas music.  The good stuff.  There are plenty of “holiday” songs I could do without, but thank goodness for Pandora online radio, which I am constantly streaming in my house.

I love The Messiah.  I probably normally couldn’t convince my husband and children to go sit through a really long choral performance, but when blog friend DeNae mentioned she was participating, I jumped on the reason.  It totally, absolutely put my Christmas heart in the right place.  It was long, and the hour was a little late, and the children were a little restless, but they were so GOOD.  I think they felt and understood the reverence and majesty of it.  Natalie now sings the Hallelujah chorus while she walks around the house, and I love it.

I love the “excuse” of the holiday to express love and appreciation for friends and neighbors, my children’s teachers and leaders, and people who bless my life all the time and often go unnoticed.

I love, love Christmas cards.  It’s like a little walk down memory lane of friends from years and stages past.  I love all the good people God has put in my life and Christmas cards remind me how abundant that blessing is.

I love looking for and finding service opportunities that our family can participate in.  Sub for Santa participation is always fun and rewarding.  Yesterday, the kids and I paid for the meal of someone behind us at a drive-through window, and they loved peeking their heads above the back seat to see the surprised reaction as we drove away.  I just love stuff like that because it feels so … good.

I love chocolate.  I’m on a diet, but still.

I love that this is the only time of the year that snow can fall, and I don’t feel bitter about it.

I love finding simple ways to celebrate.  I’m all about doing things with as little time and money investment as possible.  Like when we drove around our neighborhood and gave out “Best Christmas Lights” awards.  Or when we made cookies just because we had a little time and then drove around to give them to people we maybe didn’t think of the first time around.

I love trying to make the big day as special as possible by doing most of the hard work before it comes.  This is why I actually had my wedding reception the day before my wedding.  And it’s why I do my Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve.  I just like spending the real day in as much relaxed peace as possible.  And leftovers rock.

I love Mary.  I don’t think we ever give her enough credit for how Jesus Christ turned out.  Yes, he was divine.  Yes, he was foreordained.  But she raised him and guided him and helped him become all he was meant to be.  She must have felt an incredible responsibility, and I have no doubt that her initial submission to the Father, “Be it unto me according to thy word,” set the example for all that Christ did throughout his life.

I think the real reason I love Christmas is because I love Christ.  It’s just that simple.  And all the extra attentions at this time of year feel like a way of honoring Him and showing Him how special He is to me and my family.  Because like The Messiah declares, He spent a lot of time being despised, rejected and spat upon, and I guess it feels like there can never be too much praise to pay Him back for all He suffered for me.

So.  Merry, merry Christmas.  I hope you find many things to love, many ways to love, and many opportunities to feel love for the rest of the holiday season.

   “It is proper during this season when we commemorate His birth that we remember the Lord Jesus Christ in reverence and with love. He has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. He has brought meaning to our mortal existence. He has given us the gift of eternal life.
“When all is said and done, when all the legions of the ages have passed in review, when man’s terrible inhumanity to man has been chronicled, when God’s great love for His children has been measured, then above all stands the lone figure of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world, the Savior of mankind, the living Son of the living God, the Prince of Peace, the Holy One.”  — Gordon B. Hinckley

GCBC Week 12: “Redemption” by Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr. , and “The Divine Gift of Repentance” by Elder D. Todd Christofferson

Two talks again. I know, I know. It’s Christmas. But that’s why it seemed perfect.  These talks focus on the greatest gift that the Savior gave to us: the opportunity to became cleansed from sin and return to the presence of our Father.  So I hope you can make the time during the week we celebrate his birth (and shower each other with gifts) to reflect on His gifts of grace and forgiveness to you.

Redemption by Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr.

“Although we can never repay the Redeemer what He paid on our behalf, the plan of redemption calls for our best efforts to fully repent and do the will of God.”

The Divine Gift of Repentance  by Elder D. Todd Christofferson

“Only repentance leads to the sunlit uplands of a better life. And, of course, only through repentance do we gain access to the atoning grace of Jesus Christ and salvation. Repentance is a divine gift, and there should be a smile on our faces when we speak of it.”

Tell us what you learned or felt as you studied these talks. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

[To anyone who is checking out GCBC for the first time, the goal is to read one General Conference talk a week and discuss it together as an on-line “book club.” If you want to learn more, go here, and join the discussion.]

Looking for some holly-jolly laughs

I’ve never spent a lot of time on YouTube, and I don’t really feel like browsing around looking for great content, but in the last couple of days, I found these little treasures through friends on Facebook.  My kids have been cracking up, watching them over and over again.

I’ve always LOVED this one (for me).  I’ve probably watched it more than 20 times and I laugh out loud every time.:

So, do you have any favorites?  Especially ones my kids would like (ages 8, 7, 5)?  I thought it would be fun to watch some over Christmas break.  I bet you have some great ones.  Hit me.

It’s a good thing I’m so educated.

I have a master’s degree.

However.

This is an actual conversation I had with a 16-year old employee at the drive-thru window of a local fast-food restaurant.

“You can order whenever you’re ready.”

“Hi. Yes, I’d like one twist ice cream cone, but do you have one that’s smaller than the large?”

“We have a small.”

“Oh, okay.  I’d like a small please.”

“Is that it?”

“Yep.  That’s all.”

“Okay, your total will be $1.92 please.”

“Um, does the small cone cost more than the large cone?”

“No, they’re the same price.”

“Well, the big banner out front says the large cone is $1.00.”

“Right.  The large is $1.00 on special, and the small is $1.00.”

“But you said my total was $1.92.”

“No, I said ‘$1.00. Lane 2 please.'”

“Oooh. (nervous laugh) Sorry, I guess I misunderstood you.”

A few minutes later, the girl came wandering back to my place in line and took my dollar and gave me the ice cream cone.

As I drove away, I realized I never did go get in Lane 2.

I hope Grant appreciated that stupid ice cream cone.

And I really hope that I’m smart again when I get resurrected.

3rd Annual 12 Days of Christmas Challenge (It’s easy.)

So here’s the basic idea: Random acts of kindness every day for the Twelve Days of Christmas. It can be anything. (Hence, “random.”)

Here are a few ideas I threw around in my head: mailing a Christmas package to someone, paying for the next person’s order in the drive-thru window or swiping my card to pay for a particular someone’s purchase behind me in the checkout line at the grocery store, write a letter or make a phone call to someone who might need it, show up at another tired mom’s house and help her fold laundry or wrap presents, drop off goodies at the house of a grumpy or lonely neighbor, . . . You get the idea. No need to spend– just look for an opportunity for kindness and jump on it, whether for a loved one or a stranger.

So I’m going to start Tuesday, on December 13th and spread some Christmas kindness every day through Christmas Eve. And I’ll involve my children as much as possible– coming up with ideas, or making something together, or delivering or whatever– so that we can feel the spirit of it as a family. Anybody want to join me in the challenge?

Here’s a button if you want one. You can blog about it and invite others, or put it on your sidebar as a reminder, or do whatever works for you.

html code for the button:
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This post right here can be the gathering place for sharing the joy. Come back and report some of the things you do, if you want to, or if you have a great story to share. (I’ll keep a link on my sidebar here for easy access.) You’re welcome to comment your “reports” anonymously or with initials or a pseudonym or something. I just think it would be fun to hear about each other’s experiences and rejoice in the whole business of joyful service together. Plus, we can read and then steal each other’s ideas.

“In short, the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit, that makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service. ‘It is the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ, obedience to which will bring ‘peace on earth,’ because it means—good will toward all men.’ Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. Then each Christmas will be the best Christmas ever.”Thomas S. Monson

 

Here’s a fun idea that my family did for Family Home Evening tonight.  We made up award ribbon signs and then drove all around our neighborhood looking at everyone’s Christmas lights.  We decided together which houses were our pick for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place, then knocked on their door to give them their awards.  I’m sure they were flattered by the great honor.  The kids loved it, and it was a fun family activity.

GCBC Week 11: “It Is Better to Look Up” by Elder Carl B. Cook, and “The Songs They Could Not Sing” by Elder Quentin L. Cook

Since we learned all about priorities and time management last week from Elder Ardern, I thought this week I’d really put you to the test.  Actually, I just selected two talks because they go really well together.  I know you’re all busy getting ready for Christmas, but I promise that slowing down to study these talks will give you some much-needed moments of peace and instruction.

These are both great talks.  All of us face challenges in different forms.  I often wonder at the challenges of others and how they possibly handle them, but the fact is:  God customizes our challenges just for us, and He has prepared us to face them.  He knows who we are, and He believes in us.  In addition to his faith, He also offers us His help.  Sometimes the most important thing we need to get through a challenge is the knowledge that we are not in it alone.  Both talks reassure us that Heavenly Father is nearby and willing to offer us support and relief in our trials.  Like the enslaved people we read about in Mosiah 24, we learn that our challenges are rarely removed, but that the Lord lightens our burdens and helps us find a cheerful heart even under the weight of them.  I’m looking to forward to reading what you love about these talks.

It Is Better to Look Up  by Elder Carl B. Cook

“Experience has taught me that if we, like President Monson, exercise our faith and look to God for help, we will not be overwhelmed with the burdens of life. We will not feel incapable of doing what we are called to do or need to do. We will be strengthened, and our lives will be filled with peace and joy.We will come to realize that most of what we worry about is not of eternal significance—and if it is, the Lord will help us. But we must have the faith to look up and the courage to follow His direction.”

The Songs They Could Not Sing by Elder Quentin L. Cook

“There are many kinds of challenges. Some give us necessary experiences. Adverse results in this mortal life are not evidence of lack of faith or of an imperfection in our Father in Heaven’s overall plan. The refiner’s fire is real, and qualities of character and righteousness that are forged in the furnace of affliction perfect and purify us and prepare us to meet God.”

What about these talks stood out to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

p.s. Waiting upon the Lord: Thy Will Be Done by Elder Robert D. Hales is another excellent talk about patience through trials, but we’ll study that one later.

To anyone who is checking out GCBC for the first time, the goal is to read one General Conference talk a week and discuss it together as an on-line “book club.” If you want to learn more, go here, and join the discussion.