Thanksgiving Day Prayer
by Walter Rauschenbusch (1861–1918)
For the wide sky and the blessed sun,
For the salt sea and the running water,
For the everlasting hills
And the never-resting winds,
For trees and the common grass underfoot.
We thank you for our senses
By which we hear the songs of birds,
And see the splendor of the summer fields,
And taste of the autumn fruits,
And rejoice in the feel of the snow,
And smell the breath of the spring.
Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty;
And save our souls from being so blind
That we pass unseeing
When even the common thornbush
Is aflame with your glory,
O God our creator,
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Do you remember #sharethegift from last Christmas? It was the church’s social media campaign–I think it’s a nice reminder to keep Christ at the center of Christmas, a great way for all of us to share goodness, and a cool way to join with other Mormons to share testimony. In short, I love these kinds of initiatives especially when Christ is the message.
The Christmas theme (and hashtag) for 2015 is A Savior is Born. There will be a video, gifs, and printables at christmas.mormon.org at the end of the week. I put together a service countdown advent already, but I wanted a super simple coloring page for my Primary kids as well. The simple page I created above is available below. There are two per page, designed to be cut in half.
Merry Christmas, friends!
I’m looking forward to the campaign the church is putting together for Christmas this year: follow along with the hashtag #asaviorisborn. There’s a new video that drops on November 29th, and they’re hoping we’ll use the hashtag on social media–a lot like last year’s #sharethegift. The video and printables will all be found at christmas.mormon.org at the end of the week.
I liked helping our Primary get involved in last years campaign! I think it’s cool for the kids to see how they can participate in a worldwide faith initiative. Their willingness to help can also encourage their families to participate.
Also, I’ve been thinking about doing a service advent. So I’ve merged these two ideas by combining the #asaviorisborn campaign with a service paper chain. Part of the campaign is meant to encourage us all to do something good because of Him. Hopefully the service advent will give everyone lots of ideas of some simple but positive things to do!
I formatted the image above in a couple of different sizes, depending on just how many paper chains you’re making and how much ink you’d like to use! The image is from lds.org and I just layered the title and the scripture Isaiah 9:6 over the top.
Below you’ll also find an easy printable with 25 simple service activities most children could do on their own. Just print the three pages, cut them into 1 inch strips and staple them together into a chain.
You can download the images at different sizes: a large 1 per page, 2 per page, or 6 per page (perfect for a Primary or Sunday school class).
Please note on this six-per-page version the margins are very small. When I print at FedEx, this PDF would work great, but my home printer would not print to the edges, so be aware and print with care.
There are 25 slips in the paper chain, designed to be started on the first day of December and running through December 25th. They are numbered so you can keep them in order. You’re meant to cut 1/2 inch margin off the top and bottom, and then cut each slip one inch tall.
You can attach the image directly to the paper chain, but I think they look great mounted on a nice card stock border. On the one I tested out below, I punched a hole punch at the top and cut a slit with an Xacto knife on the bottom to make it easy to attach the last advent chain.
I am excited to share a fun Book of Mormon based Primary activity that would be perfect for the 2016 theme “I Know the Scriptures are True.” My dear friend Anita shared this Book of Mormon activity that she organized for her ward after their Primary read the Book of Mormon last year. She spent the year checking in with the kids as they embarked on their Journey to the Promised Land, using a poster and gold stars to help track their progress.
At the end of the year they held a Golden Plates Party. The invitations were inside an outline of golden plates and the text (so clever!): And it came to pass that a proclamation went out for the Green Valley* Ward Primary Golden Plates Party! It will be held on the twenty-first day of the eleventh month, from 6-8 pm at the church. Scripture costumes welcome.
*Ward name changed
Anita’s family member had printed these amazing scripture standees for a Book of Mormon production, so they were able to use them for their activity! They look so great. But if you look at the photos she shared, you’ll notice that they used Book of Mormon themed Gospel Art images around the walls too. Other decorations included palm trees, a tent canopy, and a wooden tower for King Benjamin’s speech!
After the children arrived they had someone role-playing King Benjamin address the group from his tower, reading from Mosiah.
Then they split into three groups, the Nephites, Laminates, and Zoramites! The kids rotated between three classes.
- Captain Moroni, where the kids wrote a title of liberty with fabric markers and a pole.
- Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s to hear Ammon’s story and then bury weapons. They used a wooden sword, box, popsicle sticks for “weapons” for each of the children to bury.
- Mormon where they wrote their testimony on plates (gold poster paper).
(Note King Benjamin’s tower in the image, above right!) After their classes, they gathered in the gym for a tug of war battle which was interrupted by darkness and then the scripture movie about 3 Nephi! I love this extra drama–I think re-enacting the darkness followed by a quiet voice in 3 Nephi is so memorable and could create such an impact on the children! Anita says she borrowed the video from a seminary teacher friend, but there are several video options on lds.org that could work.
(How cute are these face! Love these guys.)
At the end of the party they awarded the children who had read the scriptures a necklace or tie tack. And of course, they finished up with rice crispy treats designed to look like golden plates.
Thanks so much for sharing, Anita!
I don’t know how it’s feeling where you live, but it’s been a rough couple of weeks around here. I’m not going to make a list because it’s just too depressing. Global and local, the news kind of sucks.
Today’s idea for practicing happiness is one that is simple but vital, and so relevant this week: choose hope.
I have spent many years of my life proud of my ability to look at the sad facts without flinching, to face and speak the hard truths. There is something admirable and freeing about that kind of honesty. But I’ve learned that facing reality and assuming the most “realistic” next steps can also warp the truth with negativity. More importantly, it can be a really sad way to live.
That’s not to say we should nurture self-delusion and blind optimism. It’s okay to accept truth as it comes. I think the key is to accept these truths while choosing hope for the future. We can accept the truths of our shortcoming and failings and still, always, have hope for better. We can see the world as it is, in all it’s horror and depravity, and still hope that our children can build a better tomorrow.
It’s the essence of faith: not just faith in terms of a testimony of a living God, but faith in humanity, faith in life, faith in tomorrow. Without hope, there is no room for faith of any kind, let alone the kind needed to sustain a true belief in an atonement which can change everything.
So, a short list of practical things to do to”choose hope.”
- Let go of what you cannot control. When the sad news is all beyond your realm of influence, at some point you must choose to turn off the TV. Stop reading all the analysis. Don’t leave comments on Facebook or Twitter that will pull you in to conflict. It’s nearly impossible to choose hope against a tidal wave of repetitively bad news. You don’t need to hide from it, but you don’t need to build a home there either.
- Spend time with kids. I don’t know why this is so exactly, but there is nothing that inspires hope as much as children. Sunbeams are my favorite age: I find them so earnestly good and eager to please. Primary is a great place for this! But when I was in Young Womens I would often return from a Wednesday activity feeling hopeful about the future of our church and our community. Children and youth inspire hope. If you’re suffering from a lack of hope, find a way to spend some time around kids. I promise it works.
- Find a hopeful friend. Everyone needs a support group. Make sure yours includes at least one good friend who you see often who is happy, upbeat, and positive. Book lunch with her this week.
- Serve. Start a campaign of Random Acts of Kindness. Do your Visiting Teaching with a vengeance. Start a new volunteer opportunity. Doing something to make the world better will definitely make you feel better about the things we can’t fix.
- Give yourself permission to feel bad. Sometimes bad stuff happens. You can’t always assign blame or find the cause. You don’t have to be happy in the face of tragedy. But hope can coexist with these feelings: you can still choose to believe that tomorrow will be better and that a loving God exists.
Please feel free to share anything you’re doing to choose hope in the comments.
I really love this quote from Ezra Taft Benson that I came across this week:
We must not lose hope. Hope is an anchor to the souls of men. Satan would have us cast away that anchor. In this way he can bring discouragement and surrender. But we must not lose hope. The Lord is pleased with every effort, even the tiny, daily ones in which we strive to be more like Him. Though we may see that we have far to go on the road to perfection, we must not give up hope.
Our Raingutter Regatta is this week! I’m sharing a few free printables if you’re interested. We’ll be giving out certificates for various categories. Basically, they’re each a reason to celebrate each boy! We’d like to give as many awards as possible.
All the certificates are very generic, with no dates or Pack numbers anywhere. There’s a blank line on the bottom left for an adult to sign (to lend some authority) designated for the Raingutter Regatta Flotilla Admiral. It could be anyone, but if you have a designated judge that would be the best person to sign here.
I had a couple of requests for a Spanish version of the scripture posters I made a month ago. I am happy to deliver: we share a building with the Spanish branch, so I will be putting these posters up next to our English version posters on our shared bulletin board.
Click to the original post if you’re wondering how to print these: they are simply engineering prints, black and white, that your local copy shop will be able to print for you for less than $5.
The scripture for the year, 2 Nefi 4:15, is available below.
All the other scriptures for each month of the year are also available, as designated in the Sharing Time Outline for Primary. I only have one poster for both April and June: they are both an Article of Faith found on the same page, so you could print one for both or print two if you’re underlining. There is one hiccup particular to the Spanish version. The first scripture, 2 Nefi 32:3, is split over two pages. So I reoriented the poster to horizontal to fit two open pages. I included an image below so you can understand what I mean.
My little sister is lesbian. She and her girlfriend are raising three children in their home. Just so you know. The Mormon policy changes last Thursday had very personal consequences. I’ve been thinking and reading incessantly about this issue for the last few days. I love my sister. I love all my Mormon brothers and sisters whose hearts have been broken by these policies.
I am so sorry. It’s weak, but it’s what I have to offer.
Today was our Primary program. I sat on the stand, ready to help any of the children who might need me. It was bumpy and sweet, silly and spiritual. I got the giggles when I caught my husband turning pink with laughter at a particularly zealous performance. But then for our closing song, The Miracle, I found myself choking up and a mix of warmth and peace washed over my soul. I felt the Spirit undeniably. I knew I was in the right place. The confirmation felt hopeful and generous.
I sometimes say that I’m Mormon to my bones, that I’ll be Mormon until I die. Because it’s part of who I am: it’s my heritage, my past and my future. But I also stay Mormon because of personal spiritual confirmations that fill me with light.
All the things I’ve written here are true for me.
It might be weak, but it’s what I have to offer.
And pictures of baby animals are cute and lighthearted and we all need a bit of a smile today.
Last week I shared a one page poster which has Book of Mormon pictures from the Gospel Art Kit coordinated with the letters of the alphabet! I think it’s a fun way to incorporate the Senior Primary course of study (Book of Mormon) with the Primary 2016 theme: I Know the Scriptures are True! There are several variations of this idea that you could use for an activity, a kick off for the new year, or even a sharing time.
Today I have those same images available as 4×6 jpegs, which makes them easy to print as photos and then slip in to inexpensive photo books to make an easy sacrament quiet book. If you Primary is small, you could easily make one for each child! Ours is too big, but I think I’ll make one for my two youngest children.
Click over to my post about the Bible ABC photo booklet if you want more details about how to print this booklet.
You’ll find each image available for download below, plus a zipped file at the bottom with all 25–I chose to skip X!
I’m turning 40 in a few days. It’s okay: most days I feel older than 40! I feel like I’ve been around the block a few times. I think I look older and I like how it affects the way people treat me in restaurants, at parent-teacher conferences, and in ward council. People don’t really mess with me anymore. The tradeoff is easily worth the wrinkles around my eyes, the click in my right knee, and the knowledge that the end is closer than the beginning (probably).
Mostly turning 40 means that I am much more comfortable in my own skin. I understand that who I am is inextricably linked to my family (my parents as well as my children) and I am ok with that. I’m well acquainted with my personality flaws and failings. I can see pretty clearly that there are a few (metaphorical) places that I’d hoped to reach that I will probably never get to. I wrestled through my 30’s striving for more, as is natural.
Now at the beginning of my 40’s I can see more clearly what I am okay living without. The striving is replaced with a comfortable acceptance, an ability to live in the “now” instead of an imaginary future that is just out of reach. The peace that comes in this place is worth the price of letting go of a few over-extended dreams.
That’s the message of today’s “Practicing Happiness Now.” Try to live in the now. It’s something I’ve only begun to get a handle on: freeing myself from living in the future or the past.
I actually think it’s an expression of faith, as Neal A. Maxwell said back in 1991:”Faith also includes trust in God’s timing.” When you choose to live in the now, you’re allowing time for difficulties to work out. Living in the now also means forgiving your younger self for the foibles and naivete that are inherent to youth. I think having trust in God’s timing also means having faith in the rhythms of life–accepting more graciously the consequences of youth and inexperience, embracing the changes that come over the course of many long years of marriage, trusting the challenges that come with aging. It seems apparent that these are all a natural part of life: God was surely aware that they would be coming our way. We can trust that these rhythms are part of a tutoring from a benevolent, loving Father.
Of course it’s always okay to hope for more, but not at the cost of neglecting the present. Remember, the counsel from D&C 64:32, “But all things must come to pass in their time.”
President Monson covers the subject here and that talk includes this quote: “Sometimes we let our thoughts of tomorrow take up too much of today. Daydreaming of the past and longing for the future may provide comfort but will not take the place of living in the present. This is the day of our opportunity, and we must grasp it.” Live in the now: don’t let it pass by worrying about the future or the past.
Live in the now. Trust in God’s overarching plan.With 40 looming, I’m really feeling this message as part of my goal to practice happiness. I promise I’ll keep working on it as I eat my birthday cake!