Friday, September 27, 2013

Illustrating the Book of Mormon- Alma 43-50

For years I wanted to know what learning by faith was as written about in section 88 in the Doctrine and Covenants. I understood learning by study but what was the process to learn by faith?  Elder David Bednar cleared that up for me when he gave a memorable talk in 2007 to Institute and Seminary teachers. 
    "Faith as the evidence of things not seen looks to the past and confirms our trust in God and our confidence in the truthfulness of things not seen. We stepped into the darkness with assurance and hope, and we received evidence and confirmation as the light in fact moved and provided the illumination we needed. The witness we obtained after the trial of our faith (see Ether 12:6) is evidence that enlarges and strengthens our assurance.
Assurance, action, and evidence influence each other in an ongoing process. This helix is like a coil, and as it spirals upward it expands and widens. These three elements of faith—assurance, action, and evidence—are not separate and discrete; rather, they are interrelated and continuous and cycle upward. And the faith that fuels this ongoing process develops, evolves, and changes. As we again turn and face forward toward an uncertain future, assurance leads to action and produces evidence, which further increases assurance. Our confidence waxes stronger, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little."
  The whole talk is here. Since reading the talk I am always looking for thIs model in the scriptures. There is a wonderful example in Alma. This foldable could be a great way to record the scripture search in this chapter. Cut a 7 inch square and fold one inch around the square where you can glue the square to a larger paper..

   Draw a line from corner to corner and starting in the middle pierce the center and cut along the lines. Now you have four flaps that open.

   Give the students a block of scriptures and had them look for the assurances, actions, and evidences that Helaman's army discovered through learning by faith.

The chapter is a wonderful read and making this multi-dimensional graphic cements the learning.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New Ways Of Moving

    My husband, being thin by heredity, has never promoted exercising together. I was shocked when he suggested that we try swimming together as a way of keeping fit. How could I object to something I really enjoy? So, we joined the Athletic Club and believe it or not, we are swimming three times a week.

    We technically have only been swimming together a few times because I like to go in the morning and he is limited to going in the evening. I go through all kinds of mental gyrations to get there; the pool may be too full, I look terrible in a swimming suit, I don't swim correctly,…. mostly thoughts I had when I was 14. But once I am in the water, I love it. My husband is so fun to watch as he tries out his "gear". He did not consult me when he bought everything in matching yellow. Yes, that is a snorkel.

   I still fully stand behind my six habits of happiness; pray, study, nourish, create, move, and serve. That doesn't mean they are easy to participate in every day. They do, however make me happy, when I'm done.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What Are We Doing In Primary 5?

     Dear Parents,
        I have been teaching your child for 10 weeks now and I would love to share my insights with you. Your children are truly hardworking and eager to learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ. They had a wonderful teacher before me and she laid a strong and secure foundation of behavior expectations and quality of learning.
   I have not been in Primary for decades and when I read through the curriculum I was amazed. Could we really be teaching the Doctrine and Covenants along with Church History to these 7-8 year olds? Coming from being a seminary teacher I had a few ideas up my sleeve. I wanted to know just how far these youths could go in learning and absorbing he gospel.
   My first goal was to make sure each child could find scriptures in the Doctrine and Covenants. This is the perfect book to search in since the sections are numbered.

   Then I started working with journals. I love ongoing journals because they allow creativity, collections of ideas, and they become an assessment tool as we review material from week to week. My students loved them, as well. Each week we have a journal activity. It may be inserting missing words into a scripture passage, or finding information on a map, or assembling ideas on a foldable. A foldable is a multi-dimensional graphic organizer. Here is one I am working on for this week's Article of Faith

   My desire is to teach the gospel simply and truthfully with as many hands on activities as time allows. Thank-you for sending scriptures with your child. You may see highlighter tape in them to mark our scriptures. This tape is removable.

From time to time our journals will come home. This can be an excellent opportunity to use them at Family Home Evening. Ask your child to teach a lesson using her journal. Whatever you use them for I  have certainly enjoyed watching each child hard at work.

   Thanks for entrusting your child in our care and I hope we support your gospel teaching at home.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


   I found a picture the other day. It kept me up all night thinking about this extraordinary couple who mentored me as a teenager.

   John and Sharon Kasteler were key figures in my days the summer of 1970. I was their Mother's helper and the pay was good. Every weekday morning I arrived at their home to do housework with Sharon and babysitting when she got away in the afternoon. They had three children, two boys and a little girl. John was my Bishop, church leader, and provided me with a male father figure. My mother was a devout Mormon, but my father, agnostic, did not want organized religion dictating to him what he should do. This disconnect between the beliefs of my parents forced me to take a stand. Being an upholder, someone who responds to inner and outer rules, I sided with my mother. As I was looking for a male model of goodness, I turned to Bishop John.
  There are some valuable lessons I learned from Sharon. She spot cleaned the house every morning. Here was her routine. (It's funny that I remember it so well.) Upon arriving she and I started in the bathrooms. Bowl cleaner in the toilet to wait while we wiped down the tub and shower. After cleaning the sinks we scrubbed the toilet bowl, then grabbed the towels and went to the basement to start a load of wash. Back upstairs in the kitchen we loaded the dishwasher and wiped down the kitchen table and sinks. Then we vacuumed and dusted the living room.  Bedrooms were next. that meant making beds, picking up dirty clothes and vacuuming. Wow, we did that every day together, at first, and later I did it on my own. Sharon was a very clean, or, that was the cleanest summer, ever.
   I learned to iron that summer. John had a whole closet full of white shirts. Although I learned to iron at home, my shirt technique needed help. On Sunday morning I heard John tell someone, within my earshot, that he could not take off his suit jacket because his maid had left his shirt un-ironed in the back. That was meant in jest but I retaliated by short sheeting their bed the next day. Unfortuntely, I did not do it correctly and so the following day I received a lesson in short sheeting. You must tuck in the top sheet under the mattress and then fold the bottom half way to look like the top of the sheet. Thus when you get in you can't push your legs down.
   These two lovely people had a way of welcoming me into their home without letting me cross the line of too much familiarity. I always respected them and they loved me by giving me attention I so needed as a teenager.
   In 2002, when we celebrated my mother's 90th birthday, they came to the party. I was touched by seeing them again. I am so grateful for the mentoring I received at their hand.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Learning a New Skill

     A young woman in my church volunteered to teach a class about book binding this week. I have a small weakness for empty books so I looked forward to see this hands-on process.

   Every participant had all their materials in front of them, organized and complete. The task of teaching 15 women simultaneously was a grand effort. Lets face it, no matter how old we are when it comes to doing new things, we all feel a bit vulnerable. I loved being able to pick my cover paper. When I spied the white on black dots I knew I would love my book.

The end result was not only to make our book, but to write in our book the insights and inspirations we receive from God. Our instructor started us with a few pages scriptures and thoughts about the importance of writing things down.

    My journals have some amazing stories in them and I found one from two years ago.

     May 29,2011
         I've been with my brother and sister-in-law for the last three weeks. Today I had a profound experience with my deceased mother. We were sitting in church, my brother was on my right side. I felt this strong urge to put my arms around him. I fought against this desire because it seemed strange. The  impulse became stronger and as I rationalized my inaction, the speaker caught my attention from the pulpit by saying, "Do not put off the desires you know to be right." At this point I became aware of my mother's spirit, longing to hold her son in her arms to shield him from pain and hardship. She communicated some guilt for the loss of his eye, as a child, during the Second World War. I knew she was aware of his struggles with his other eye. She pressed me to vicariously give him her love, unreservedly. I finally did so and later in the day unburdened my knowledge to him of my feelings from our mother. She let me feel her pleasure at seeing her children together, caring for each other.

                    I am grateful for a new experience which propels me to do more with the written word.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Illustrating The Book of Mormon- Alma's Sons

   For a parent there is no passage of scripture as beautiful and insightful as the chapters of Alma teaching his sons. I find them useful in every season of parenting.

  In Chapter 36, Alma writes his spiritual story. He desires that Helaman understands the full impact of his repentance. What better way than to write it out in Chiastic poetry. When it is diagramed as a chasm our eyes are led to the climax of the account. Crying out to Jesus for mercy is the pinnacle of his release from spiritual darkness.

Here are some more of my thoughts on this scripture block.
If you would like a 4x5 version of these illustrations go to the bottom of this page.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Change and Renewal

I have been a life-long renter. Never have purchased a home and I probably never will. Yes, the American dream has alluded me and I live to tell the tale. The little house we rent has been ours for 23 years. We are reminded of this reality whenever the landlord does upkeep. When we first moved in, the house was light blue. A green metal roof made the second color another lighter shade of green. Yes, I remember people stopping their cars to gawk at that awful green 15 years ago.

                       Last week the painters came and the change evolved into a new neutral theme.

                                Piano students came and entered a green house, only to leave a beige one.

                So now, the next decade begins and I have a renewed coat of paint on my exterior. Alas, it is like the upkeep on my outside self. I can't see it but I don't want to scare people away so I fix myself up, occasionally.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Vicarious Farming

   There are mini cultures in which I wish membership but, alas I am a fraud. One of those is the world of sustainable farming. This year I did not even try to plant. I can't say I have ever been really successful at planting a garden but being a vicarious gardener is the best ever. My CSA subscription caught my fancy and I love receiving the bag or box every Thursday.

    I invited "my farmers" over for dinner to thank them for their hard work and diligence. We ate vegetables from their garden and lamb from a local dairy. I quizzed them about their passion for the soil and their answers did not disappoint. They farm because they love the connection to the earth. It makes them happy to labor on the land.

       Having worked on sustainable farms as interns, this year was the first go on their own. Their main concern was finding the right irrigation system and finding balance of just enough water. I feel genuinely grateful that young farmers care to learn and work so hard.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Class Engagement

   You may have a child in your class who just won't engage. I can take talking, silliness, and not paying attention but I really worry about non-engagement. Variety in activities is the strongest attraction to a non-participant. Some children need to do things with their hands. They are often very creative and crave some action with materials. Cutting, pasting, writing and drawing, if these have meaning, can pull a reluctant learner into the spotlight. With our class journals I provide a variety of hands-on supplies. This week we have folds that open when we find the missing words in our scriptures.

     Inside the folded cardboard are vocabulary words to learn. After some discussion the definition is written under the answer.

     Each journal has a personality of it's creator. My boys are just as eager to work with their books as the girls.

    I don't worry about handwriting or perfection; I just expect involvement in the activity.

         Next week we are using different folds to reveal the important question of the week.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Directed Listening

  Although we have many activities, my Primary class needs some help during the few moments we spend just listening. I have church history stories to tell and I like to included lots of details. If I tell the stories from memory I often forget important elements. One technique I use is to record the stories on my I-Phone memo feature, in 1-2 minutes segments.

 And, I ask my students to listen for a specific word or phrase. This directed listening works very well for any age and in any teaching situation. We like glueing, so I give them their word, or phrase on a type written slip of paper.

When they hear it, they may glue it on a journal page. These phrases become story prompts as we review the journal the next week. Two goals met, from this one activity; better listening and better remembering from week to week.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

New Treasures and Morning Lines

    Each autumn I ponder about a group of blossoms that spring out of the ground. Forcing their way through blackberry vines, they make a grand entrance. They look like crocus but I can't believe they would come this time of year.

Until I read that there is a autumn variety. Amazing!

We are renting a new piece of art. This little piece has the look of a woodcut but is not. Painted by Ted Kutscher, it is a brief glimpse onto a French street.

    Lastly, I have a new installment of the Armand Gamache series. This is the kind of book that I read slowly to make it last. I already have some favorite quotes. Here are some Morning Lines;

   "Isabelle Lacoste saw how the rot started. How it happened, not overnight, but by degrees. A small doubt broke the skin. Then an infection set in. Questioning. Critical. Cynical. Distrustful."

   "But, like peace, comfort didn't come from hiding away or running away. Comfort first demanded courage."

   "Sounds like being a therapist. People normally come into my office because something happened. Someone had died, or betrayed them. Their love wasn't reciprocated. They'd lost a job. Gotten divorced. Something big. But the truth was, while that might've been the catalyst, the problem was almost always tiny and old and hidden."

   "He knew, as a man used to fear, the great danger of letting it take control. It distorted reality. Consumed reality. Fear created it's own reality."