Day 9 – National Preparedness Challenge – Spiritual Preparedness, Part 2
Our lives are pretty crazy! There’s work, school, thekids sports, homework, housework, volunteering, and church. For most of us we’re pretty good at getting these things in each week. For many it’s an engrained habit, a piece of cake. However we forget where real spiritual nourishment comes from. These things are important, but it’s like trying to live off fast food rather than a daily thanksgiving feast. (I’ll take the pies and turkey over a Big Mac any day). It keeps you going, but eventually your health will deteriorate. Same with spiritual matters, when we do all these “good” things, but neglect the “best” foods our spiritual health wanes as well. So are you hungry?
Isn’t it ironic that those larger items (that usually bring stress, not relief) all seem to get into our schedules, but those little things that have a far greater significance and effect on our lives get left behind despite the relativity small amount of time they require? If your life is full of stress and lacking peace, it isn’t because you’re lacking order and need to manage your time or resources better, it’s because you’re forgetting the foundation that it stands on. Scripture study is all those little nails that hold every piece of your house together (remember that from last week). When you don’t put enough nails into your floor joist they are unable to handle the weight, they creak, and will eventually break due to the uneven distribution of weight. A life without faith based study is one that is losing faith, stability, and will eventually break. If we are trying to be prepared then this is where there is the most bang for your buck!
St. John Fisher University gives an impressive list of benefits that are derived from this simple yet profound principle.
Within a well-rounded liberal arts program, the field of religious studies plays an important role in helping students appreciate the values and heritage of people living in the intercultural milieu of twenty-first century America. Among the benefits of religious studies in this era of globalization are the following opportunities:
- to explore the “big questions” of life from a variety of perspectives;
- to deepen understanding of one’s own religious tradition as well as those of different religious backgrounds;
- to gain fuller insight into the political, economic, social and artistic behaviors that reflect religious traditions and commitments;
- to enhance ethical awareness and promote social responsibility in personal and professional life.
(http://www.sjfc.edu/academics/arts-science/departments/religious/ St. John Fisher University home page for Religious Studies Department)
A study from UCLA published in their Newsletter Spirituality in High Education describes this seeming phenomenon:
Meditating, yoga, fasting, walking a prayer circle, making a pilgrimage, taking the sacraments, singing with a choir, going on a weekend retreat, listening to the words of inspired speakers like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., dancing in a group at a wedding, lighting Advent or Hanukkah candles, saying daily prayers, or contemplating a sunset or a mountaintop view are all spiritual and religious practices undertaken by many of us in our daily lives, at special seasons of the year, or maybe just once in a lifetime. Some practices begin early in life and stretch back to our childhoods, while others may be sought out in adolescence and young adulthood, representing new paths.
What all of these practices have in common, however, is the way in which they integrate different aspects of our human experience – our emotions with our intellect or our minds with our bodies – while also connecting us with others who share similar beliefs. We seek out these experiences, which are special and set us distinctly apart from our mundane and ordinary daily lives. These experiences lift us up out of our narrow selves and give us a glimpse – if only temporary – of another way to view things as a part, however small, of a larger picture. Spiritual and religious practices that help us integrate the body, mind, and spirit, also provide psychological and physical benefits, as research from the past two decades has shown. (http://spirituality.ucla.edu/docs/newsletters/4/Idler_Final.pdf – Spirituality in Higher Education Newsletter, vol 4 issue 2, Feb 2008, Ellen Idler)
Now although they refer mainly in the paper to any religious activity, I think it’s safe to say that daily scripture or faith based study would be included on that list. Doesn’t matter what you’re religious beliefs are the benefits will be the same. If the scriptures of the world’s different religions didn’t have the power to change lives for the better and infuse us with hope, then I think its safe to say that no one would have bothered to write them down. From my own experiences I’ve come to the conclusion that any blessing you stand in need of, and any obstacle can be overcome simply through scripture study. It’s the cure all of life!
One of the biggest challenges and reasons for neglect in scripture study is simply a lack of understanding in how to study them, as opposed to simply reading them. Look at it as though you were learning another language. Simply listening to someone speak Spanish for 10 minutes a day with no reference to what their talking about, is going to produce, well, pretty much nothing. Spending an hour a day reading, listening, talking, and actively participating in learning it, and you’ll pick it up. There are many ways to participate in the scriptures rather then simply reading them.
- Read it like a novel, try to see it like a movie in your mind.
- Look for answers to questions or challenges. Sometimes while simply reading or by using the Topical Guide, Index and Bible Dictionary
- Study by topic. Once again use the topical guide, index, and bible dictionary. They’re actually one of my favorite tools.
- Use a pencil! Take notes, mark phrases or verses, make the pages bleed. You can color code it or have a special notebook, which ever you use you will see immediate results when you prove to the Lord you’re serious enough to write down what He wants to teach you.
- Be nerdy – look up definitions to words. Not just English ones that you’re unfamiliar with, but the Greek, Latin, and Hebrew (use the footnotes). If you look up other languages (Spanish, French, etc) you will also be surprised by the enlightenment that comes from their translations as well.
- Look for lists. Is it an ordered list, or just a list? Lists hold hidden meaning.
- Be a reporter – Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Use references and footnotes to find answers for a more complete picture.
- Scripture chain it – link scriptures with like scriptures making a chain of greater understanding in principles and doctrines.
When we take the time and energy to ensure that family and personal scripture study becomes a part of our lives, you will see them become a part of you. They will change you from the inside out. They are truly our greatest weapon and defense for the storms that rage around us and are the greatest preparation we will make.
Good: If you don’t have regular scripture study (or have just fallen off the wagon) then make a plan. Pick a time of day for family and individual scripture study. Make sure that you guard it like a toddler’s nap time! As Elder Henry B Erying has said “Great faith has a short shelf life.” (Elder Henry B. Erying, Spiritual Preparedness: Start Early and Be Steady, October 2005 General Conference). Your goal is to make it a whole week with no misses. If needed to make a chart to remind and reward yourself.
Better: So you’ve been pretty steady in your family and personal scripture study, now its time to up your game. Increase you’re reading time either per a study session (15 minutes to 30 minutes) or frequency (mornings to morning and evening study). Once again, make it happen for a whole week.
Best: Reach for new ground. What books of scripture have you read the least or feel the weakest understanding of? Are there other religious texts that would help increase your understanding and spirituality, or from other faiths that you think might be beneficial? This is your new assigned reading. Now that you’re out of your comfort zone, pick 2 new scripture study techniques for the week. In family scripture study, stop and discuss something, share your testimony, or if you have small kids explain the definitions of words and phrases. Start building those digging muscles in your children’s spiritual muscles.
Other great references:
http://www.unification.net/ws/wsintr4.htm – list and explanation of religious texts from around the world
LDS Scripture Study Techniques – if they work in Christian scriptures than I assume they would work for any religious text to increase understanding and spirituality http://lds.about.com/od/ldsscriptures/ss/scripture_study.htm?r=et