Saturday, December 19, 2009

Lessons from "A Christmas Carol"

We read "A Chrismas Carol" with my second grade class yesterday (I am an instructor for a charter school), and although the version we read was far from the real version--three pages long!-- it caused me to reflect on all of the beautiful things in Dickens' book. One things I remember from the book is how people of the city walked around, singing carols and rejoicing with friends and strangers because Christ was born. To these people, nothing else mattered. Their problems took a backseat and all that was before them was joy: joy in family, warmth, friendship, and, most importantly, joy in our Savior. Here's one passage that I particularly like, a scene between Scrooge and his nephew:

'"Don't be cross, uncle,'' said the nephew.

"What else can I be,'' returned the uncle, "when I live in such a world of fools as this Merry Christmas! Out upon merry Christmas. What's Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in 'em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work my will,'' said Scrooge indignantly, "every idiot who goes about "with ``Merry Christmas'' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!''

"Uncle!'' pleaded the nephew.

"Nephew!'' returned the uncle, sternly, "keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.''

"Keep it!'' repeated Scrooge's nephew. "But you don't keep it.''

"Let me leave it alone, then,'' said Scrooge. "Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!''

"There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,'' returned the nephew: "Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -- apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that -- as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!'''

What reason do we have to be merry? Because it's Christmas--there is no better reason to be found. In fact, it's reason enough to be merry and rejoice the whole year round. May we take advantage of that reason, forgetting our problems, and having the wonder of Christmas and everything it means in our hearts!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Beautiful Music

On Sunday night we attended the Salt Lake Children's Choir concert in the beautiful Cathedral of the Madelaine. Each new year excites me with their gorgeous repertoire of music from all over the world. I love hearing the innocence of these children's voices teaching about Christ and his birth.

I sang with this choir for two years. Being in the choir taught me not just how to sing, but how music itself can teach and heal. I find I cannot be sad when I sing words about beautiful summer days. I cannot be angry when I sing notes with peace riding on their melody. I cannot help but feel the love and very truth of God when I praise him with the most exquisite ideas expressed in song.

One particular song that I cherish from my Children's Choir years is "Jesu, Delightful to the Mind." Of course, the complete beauty of the piece is impossible to convey without the music, but I love the words. Here are a few verses:

Jesu, Jesu delightful to the mind,
True joy whom we were meant to find:
O what delight when he is there!

...How lovely searching for you seems,
But you surpass our wildest dreams!

The ecstasy is too intense
for any words or utterance:
The only valid evidence
Is that unique experience.
How lovely! Jesu, delight.

Oh Jesu, be our pleasure here,
Our treasure in the world to come,
When we are summoned to appear
Transfigured like the only Son. Amen.

You cannot help but feel closer to Christ when you sing words like these, learn them by heart, and practice them every day. It is through music like this that the Holy Ghost can testify strongly of Heavenly Father's love.

On the reverse side, it is easy to see how music that is not exactly "uplifting" has a great negative effect on us. If singing about beautiful things opens our hearts to receive testimony and joy from God, it is easy to see that singing about ugly things blocks the light that might have come upon us.

Many experiences throughout my childhood taught me of the importance of good music, and of participation in it, whether our talents are strong or faint. Many thanks to my parents, grandparents, and teachers who instilled this in me. It is a source of great comfort and joy.

Well, enough of this philosophizing. There are dishes to be done! Cheers!


p.s. If you'd like to know more about the Salt Lake Children's Choir, visit You'll be pleasantly surprised at how amazing they sound!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Walk in Joy

What do I need a blog for? I started to think about it tonight. My friends and family live close enough to keep contact without the internet. Strike one. I don't have a life bursting full of action and stories to tell. Strike two. I'm not that into social networking stuff, anyway. My Facebook activity is limited to scanning the recent news feed, looking at flair, and thinking of clever things to say on my status. Not much need to network going on in my internet life. Strike three, the blog's out. But I kept thinking about it. If I were to create a blog, I thought, it would be a place where my family (just my husband and I, at the moment) can share the happy moments we experience so often in our lives.

"Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy." ~2 Nephi 2:25

This is one of my favorite scriptures from the Book of Mormon. When I remember that this is why I am here on the earth--to give and receive joy--life gets so much better! We're not here primarily to worry about the bills, stress about the government, slave away at our jobs, get angry at the driver in front of us, or do anything that brings negativity into our lives. Knowing this changes my perspective and the choices I make immensely!

Tyler and I are reading a book called Your Money or Your Life for a book discussion with a few friends. The authors, Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, provide an interesting perspective of money. In a nutshell, they define money as "something we choose to trade our life energy for. Our life energy is our allotment of time here on Earth, the hours of precious life available to us. When we go to our jobs we are trading our life energy for money...Life energy is all we have. It is precious because it is limited and irretrievable and because our choices about how we use it express the meaning and purpose of our time here on Earth." (Chapter 2)

This statement changed more than my view of money. We not only trade our life energy for money--we trade it for tears or laughter; for hatred or love; for selfishness or service; for sorrow or joy. I realized this, and asked where I spend most of my life energy--do I trade it for sorrow, or for joy? Though I lead a very happy life, full of blessings and love from my husband, family, friends, and Heavenly Father, my investment in happiness could go up. So I decided this should be a place to share and celebrate the happiness given to us. Hopefully it will help me--and maybe you--remember to spend our life energy walking in the light of joy.