Cultivating a Christ-Centered Home | Dionna Chiarolanza
I was asked to share some thoughts on cultivating a Christ-centered home.
President Nelson has said:
My brothers and sisters, I plead with you to make time for the Lord! … Nothing invites the Spirit more than fixing your focus on Jesus Christ.
So what does it mean to fix our focus on Jesus Christ? How do we “cultivate” a Christ-centered lifestyle individually and with our families?
Obstacles, Warnings, and Light
In the book of Ether, we read the story about the Jaredites who were commanded to leave their homes and travel to a new land. The Lord God directs and guides these beloved children from a cloud. They journey on foot until they find themselves on the seashore and decide to set up camp. However, they end up camping there for 4 years. They were stagnant. They do nothing to move forward. They knew that their journey wasn’t complete but they became lax in their communication with the Lord. I wonder if they saw an obstacle and eventually considered it an impossibility to cross.
At the end of the fourth year, the Lord Himself comes to the brother of Jared and chastises him for three hours for not calling upon the Lord. The brother of Jared repents and pledges to follow the instructions and commands of the Lord.
I think most of us know the rest of the story. The Lord, who sees all and knows there are solutions to any obstacle, commands the brother of Jared to build barges to cross the ocean to the promised land. The brother of Jared obeys but has some questions. How will they breathe? How will they see? Through sincere pondering, he miraculously creates a plan with the Lord on how to resolve both issues. The Lord suggests that they cut a hole in the top and bottom of the barges for air. He then complies with the brother of Jared’s suggestion and touches the presented stones to create light for the barges.
Before the Jaredites embarked on the rest of their journey they were Warned of the difficulties that would befall them on that journey. They had in place a plan for what to do when they were tossed around in the sea and plunged down in the deep.
Ether 6:7 says:
And when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the water.
And they did sing praises unto the Lord… and they did not cease to praise the Lord… and they did have Light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water.
After about a year on the water, they arrived. They did “shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them.”
And they began to be many. And they were taught to walk humbly before the Lord; and they were also taught from on high.
Obstacles, Warnings, and Light in Our Lives
This story reminds me of our own journey through life. When we initially come unto Christ through covenants we are led by God to promised lands. We are commanded to maintain communication with Him so that we can continue to be led. We must choose to keep moving forward and not camp at the seashore.
God will show us how to breathe in suffocating circumstances. He will grant us light so that we might not travel in darkness.
If we can indeed maintain a Christ-centered lifestyle, we will be Warned of impending dangers. We will have a plan set in place for any future troubles that would surround us. We must pray, praise the Lord during good or bad times, and teach our children as the Jaredites chose to do. We too can be taught from on high as we make Christ the focus of our family. I know that light will encompass our homes as we choose Christ.
In John 14:23 it says “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”
Can you imagine? Living in such a way that we no longer need to seek the presence of God for He has made His “abode with us”?! What should our homes look like?
- Love. We should work to emulate the love that Christ embodies.
- Casting aside our pride to put others’ needs first. I have noticed that I can feel the greatest Christ-like love when I sacrifice what I want for what my kids or husband want.
- Spending time together.
- Focusing on the good/admirable qualities of our family members and working together to cultivate new ones.
My Year of Change
Last year was a year of change for me. I wanted a stronger relationship with Christ. I wanted to find answers to questions. I wanted to improve spiritually. I wanted a better home environment.
I continued to see that for those changes to happen I needed to begin to act. No more camping on the seashore. I worked harder to make study a daily part of my life. I implemented Family Home Evening. I began working at the temple as an ordinance worker. I read the Book of Mormon with my children and made sure to make prayer part of our days.
I am not perfect. There are so many distractions that pull us away from those goals, but there is more light in our barges as we move closer to focusing on Christ. There is more patience. There is more Love.
Brother Stephen W. Owen of the Young Men’s General Presidency said:
Yes, you face challenges. But so does every generation. These are our days, and we need to be faithful, not faithless. I testify that the Lord knows about our challenges, and through the leadership of President Nelson, He is preparing us to meet them. I believe that the prophet’s recent call for a home-centered church, supported by what we do in our buildings, is designed to help us survive—even thrive—in this day of spiritual malnutrition.
Sister Linda K Burton (a former general relief society president) once spoke of the importance of intentionally keeping covenants and how they should be used to prepare our children to live covenant-keeping lives.
A wise mother I know intentionally includes her children in her efforts to keep her covenants. She joyfully bears the burdens of neighbors, friends, and ward members—and comforts those who stand in need of comfort. It was not surprising when her young daughter recently came asking for help to know how to best comfort her friend whose father had just passed away. That was a perfect setting to teach that her desire to comfort her friend was one way to keep her baptismal covenant. How can we expect children to make and keep temple covenants if we don’t expect them to keep their first covenant—their baptismal covenant?
I love this example of how to help children understand how to remember their baptismal covenants and find ways to keep their covenants always in their minds.
Sister Burton gave more examples of what we can teach our children at home.
We can discover together how to listen to the Holy Ghost. Because the temple endowment is received by revelation, we need to learn that vital skill.
We can discover the plan of happiness in the scriptures. The more familiar we are with Heavenly Father’s plan and the Atonement in the scriptures, the more meaningful temple worship will be.
We can learn the stories of our ancestors together, research family history, index, and perform vicarious temple work for deceased loved ones.
We can discover together the meaning of terms such as endowment, ordinance, sealing, priesthood, keys, and other words related to temple worship.
We can teach that we go to the temple to make covenants with Heavenly Father—we return home to keep them!12
I testify that we can live in such a way that God desires to dwell with us as we choose to maintain communication with Him, keep our covenants, and act to better ourselves.
Make Time for the Lord
In closing, I want to go back to President Nelson’s quote from the beginning about making time for the Lord, which I believe is the whole foundation of a Christ-centered home. He warns:
If most of the information you get comes from social or other media, your ability to hear the whisperings of the Spirit will be diminished. If you are not also seeking the Lord through daily prayer and gospel study, you leave yourself vulnerable to philosophies that may be intriguing but are not true. Even Saints who are otherwise faithful can be derailed by the steady beat of Babylon’s band.
My brothers and sisters, I plead with you to make time for the Lord! Make your own spiritual foundation firm and able to stand the test of time by doing those things that allow the Holy Ghost to be with you always. … Nothing invites the Spirit more than fixing your focus on Jesus Christ. Talk of Christ, rejoice in Christ, feast upon the words of Christ, and press forward with steadfastness in Christ. Make your Sabbath a delight as you worship Him, partake of the sacrament, and keep His day holy. … Nothing will strengthen your spiritual foundation like temple service and temple worship.
We really can live in such a way that God desires to dwell with us as we continue cultivating a Christ-centered home.