Articles on Family:
A site dedicated to exalting the highest ideals of family life as revealed in the Urantia Book, with blogs and interesting features and articles to promote spiritual family life.
The Family: Birthplace of Cosmic Citizens by Paul Snider
7 Arenas of Family Life by Sara Blackstock
Stories of Jesus: Lessons for Children by Vicki Arkens
How can we facilitate a child's personal relationship with God?
- Fuel Their Fire!
- Story Telling
- Celebrating Easter
- Parenting Techniques
- Helping Children Find & Use Their Abilities
- Spiritual Parenting
- Sharing Philosophy With Children
- The Urantia Book On Family Life
- More Really Good Quotes on Family
- The Urantia Book on Children
How can we facilitate a child's personal relationship with God?
How can we inspire them to enjoy their own spiritual journey?
Young people are greatly influenced by the pop-culture they experience every time they turn on the TV, pick up a magazine, listen to music, or hang out with their friends. This "non-culture" is enticing, persuasive, and even invasive because it grabs them at their emotional essence. If we as adults can possess the clarity, courage and understanding to provide children (from an early age) with real spiritual culture in the form of meanings and values, then the pop-culture may entice them, but it need not invade them. They will have the philosophic foundation to resist becoming tangled up in its web of materialistic and superficial intrigue.
Adult Responsibilities And Challenges
Our first responsibility and greatest challenge is to be loyal to the truth we teach our children, to live it moment by moment. Next we must provide an environment in which our children may discover, explore and understand that truth.
Consider the following:
- Fueling the "Spark" of God:
Many of us have had the experience of sitting by a smoldering fire on a starlit night watching as the last embers die out. We can blow on the embers to create a little flame but we soon realize that the fire needs fuel in order to burn brightly. When we experiment with different kinds of fuel as kindling - perhaps a pine cone, or an abandoned bird's nest, or better still, a sizable log, we realize that it takes the right kind of fuel to create a radiant fire.
- Cultivating the Soil:
"The soil essential for religious growth presupposes a progressive life of self-realization, the co-ordination of natural propensities, the exercise of curiosity and the enjoyment of reasonable adventure, the experiencing of feelings of satisfaction, the functioning of the fear stimulus of attention and awareness, the wonder-lure, and a normal consciousness of smallness, humility." ~ The Urantia Book, 100:1.5
As we look for ways to fan this spiritual flame in our children, and cultivate the soil essential for their religious growth, it may be helpful to keep several standard educational principles in mind:
- Maintain Balance
- Stimulate these three main aspects of the brain - Thinking, Feeling, Doing
- Learning Modalities - Employ the 7 basic modes of learning which are:
- Verbal-Linguistic —The ability to use words and language
- Logical-Mathematical —The capacity for inductive and deductive thinking and reasoning, as well as the use of numbers and the recognition of abstract patterns
- Visual-Spatial —The ability to visualize objects and spatial dimensions, and create internal images and pictures
- Body-Kinesthetic —The wisdom of the body and the ability to control physical motion
- Musical-Rhythmic —The ability to recognize tonal patterns and sounds, as well as a sensitivity to rhythms and beats
- Interpersonal —The capacity for person-to-person communications and relationships
- Intrapersonal —The spiritual, inner states of being, self-reflection, and awareness
It is indeed important to teach truth, but even more essential to provide metaphors that help children recognize truth, understand ideals, and accept God's will. For their essential foundation of truth they will look first to their parents example of how they live their lives.
"Children are permanently impressed only by the loyalties of their adult associates; precept or even example is not lastingly influential. Loyal persons are growing persons, and growth is an impressive and inspiring reality." ~ The Urantia Book, 100:1.4The most useful part of adult guidance in the lives of children is found in the adult's attitude toward life. Children more naturally live in the moment; they easily succumb to life and truly live it. Adults need to stimulate them in this bright moment of wonder, anything less is a disservice to their growth. Parents are the ultimate teachers to their children and must be acutely aware of this moment of teach-ability as they go about their daily routines of living.
Everyday life is rich with metaphors, which can act to kindle the divine spark in children. For example, the way life is born anew in springtime, the age rings on a tree, the transformation of a caterpillar into butterfly, how water finds its way back to the ocean, all contain valuable spiritual metaphors. To openly express gratitude to God for the beauty of nature, to smile and greet an old person, to notice the unique patterns of the living world, these also represent excellent opportunities to help children to connect with the meaning and value of existence.
One parent used a simple metaphoric exercise to teach his three children a valuable spiritual lesson. He sat them all down at the family dining table and gave each a tube of toothpaste, a paper plate and a Popsicle stick. He asked them to squeeze the toothpaste onto the paper plate, and promised a ten-dollar bill to the first on who could get the toothpaste back into the tube using the stick. The children struggled for some time but to no avail, and finally gave up exasperated. He then explained to them that unkind words and words of anger are like the toothpaste, easy to get out, and impossible to take back.
The more connections we help them make between the material and spiritual world, the easier it will be for them to identify and connect with these realities. We can literally help them to weave the fabric of relationship, not only with family, friends, neighbors, and community but also with nature and ultimately with God. We can provide learning environments which act to enhance and stimulate their observational abilities so that, they may be alone, but not lonely; apart from, but not disconnected; struggling, but not hopeless. We can validate the truth that God desires to express through them, and help them to celebrate their own unique personality. We can teach them how to think, not merely what to think.
Like Jesus, we must learn to be true servant leaders, and show the way. First by the example of loyalty to divine meanings and values in our own lives, and next by giving them a stockpile of metaphor, or "kindling" to keep their spiritual fire a blaze. We have but to whet the natural appetites that the creator himself put in them that they might be lured by the "tonic of adventure and the stimulus of curiosity" into the "impulse of eternity."
"Love of adventure curiosity, and dread of monotony - these traits inherent in evolving human nature - were not put there just to aggravate and annoy you during your short sojourn on earth, but rather to suggest to you that death is only the beginning of an endless career of adventure, an everlasting life of anticipation, an eternal voyage of discovery." ~ The Urantia Book, 14:5.10
We do not have to rely on chance with our children's spiritual lives. In his profound and fascinating book, The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents, Deepak Chopra has this to say :
"The deepest desire in a parent's heart is to see one's child achieve success in life, yet how many of us realize that the most direct way to success is through spirit?" ~ The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents, Page 19Surely, many parents know this, but are only just beginning to learn how to help their children know it. Again, according to Chopra, true success…
"depends on who you are, not what you do. Being or essence or spirit— call it by any name you want - lies at the source of all achievement in life." ~ The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents, Page 13It can prove helpful to identify spiritual concepts or goals that you want for your children then look for the life materials and metaphors that will help you to pass them on.
Following are and example of two spiritual concepts and one spiritual goal that a parent might wish to teach:
- That God is the child's very own loving spiritual parent with whom they can have an intimate personal relationship. He is the one absolute reality they can always count on.
- That all human beings are a part of the same cosmic family and can learn to live on this planet together peacefully by knowing, loving and serving each other.
- That the child can have a sense of their own spiritual identity and are confident in answering the commonly asked question: "What is your religion?"
FRAMING THE ISSUES
As we endeavor to provide spiritual education for our children, we should consider some preliminary questions.
Things To Consider:
- What do we want for our kids?
- What do our kids want?
- What can we actually provide?
- What is our motive in providing it? For example: Is it to give them our religious beliefs? To help them establish their own religious beliefs? To help them develop healthy self- esteem? To help them establish meaningful relationships? To give them role models like Jesus? To encourage them to learn about other spiritual paths? All of the above?
- What is "spirituality"? For example: What does it mean to have a spiritual experience? What stimulates spiritual experience? What hinders it?
- Different people and groups have different goals for religious education.
- There is a difference between personal religious experience and group religious experience.
- The differences in the way people learn, because each person is unique, what constitutes a moving spiritual experience in one may be completely meaningless to another. Some people may connect with God while reading the written word, others feel more connected while dancing, singing, making music, or creating dramatic and visual art. Our children are no different. We must be aware of the different learning styles and strive to offer a diversity of learning opportunities.
- Conventional differences, such as gender, age, cultural and ethnic diversity.
Count The Cost:
Considering the cost of developing a culture that we can pass on to our children's children is quite relevant. A child's religious education can cost little or nothing, for a parent can help a kid find wonder and meaning everywhere. However, a full spectrum program involving a group of children will almost certainly involve supplies, space, and stimulating activities, all of which require adequate funding. Even more important to success is the commitment of enthusiastic adults who are willing to expend time and energy to make it all happen. Religious movements must support and encourage adult role models to help children find God, by developing creative and meaningful ways to keep the fire of their spirit burning bright.
Some examples of what you can do to add spiritual meaning to a child's life:
- Light a candle during prayer, when reading aloud, at family meetings, or at bedtime. Candles add a touch of the sacred to events.
- Share your own experience of God with kids. This will let them know that it is OK to express the joy and adventure of finding your own spiritual path.
- Ask children and youth in your care what they feel, want, and think regarding God.
- Create a resource library to share with your family and religious community. There is an abundance of excellent material in print.
- Devote some of your own worship and study time to teaching children about God. Raising children with a God-consciousness is a community responsibility.
- Be humorous, enthusiastic, wild, adventuresome, playful, spontaneous, and even silly.
- Become an excellent storyteller - some of the world's greatest stories are in religious books. Telling stories is much more powerful and interesting than merely reading them.
- Integrate truths and activities from all paths into the religious teachings you want your children to learn . Seek the living truth in all religious paths; be neither elitist, nor isolated.
- Keep a wide array of art materials in your home to allow for activities to be planned with a minimum amount of trouble, and for spontaneous activities. Keep on hand the usual stuff kids like to use when being creative - paper, pencils, pens, crayons, balloons, balls, etc. It never hurts to have unusual stuff too!
- If you can, keep animals around, they bring out a child's natural compassion and desire to care for and love others. They can touchingly teach the lessons of birth and death. Even rats can make wonderful pets - they are clean, intelligent, interactive and can take a lot of holding.
- Offer some unselfish service in honor of your spiritual path, especially in the presence of children.
- Whenever possible, ask older children to teach younger ones. All through life we take on the responsibility of two important roles, that of teacher and student.
Some things to avoid:
- Don't expect children sit still too long.
- Don't expect them to listen too long without an opportunity to do something.
- Don't assume that your sacred experience will be sacred to them.
- Don't limit a child's concept of the spiritual. Honor their experience of God, their sincere faith and childlike understanding of God is often times deeply profound.
The most important thing that happens within a group of people, whether it involves children or adults, is relationships. Any "lessons" or "teachings" are taught best by their practical application to this one cosmic reality, without which, they have no value.
"Everything non spiritual in human experience, excepting personality, is a means to an end. Every true relationship of mortal man with other persons - human or divine - is an end in itself. And such fellowship with the personality of Deity is the eternal goal of universe ascension." ~ The Urantia Book, 112:2.8More food for thought to broaden the perspective on child-culture:
"It is to the mind of perfect poise, housed in a body of clean habits, stabilized neural energies, and balanced chemical function when the physical, mental, and spiritual powers are in triune harmony of development that a maximum of light and truth can be imparted with a minimum of temporal danger or risk to the real welfare of such a being." ~ The Urantia Book, 110:6.4
Children learn by doing, they need something to feel, see, smell, taste, touch or move in order to experience reality. To give your child a religious foundation, it never hurts to study how other religions have helped children learn and experience their spirituality. It may be inspiring for them to get up and dance, chant, light incense, play drums, or gong bells. Adults often find that they too benefit greatly from experiencing more color, sound, smell, touch, taste and emotions as they attempt to make spiritual growth more appealing for their children. As children witness our love of truth, they will be more likely to seek it themselves, not only in the traditional sources , but also along all religious paths.
Sometimes the simplest things are the most powerful and can be all that is necessary to kindle a spiritual fire in a young person's life. Think creatively, use your imagination, have fun, and remember; whenever we set out to fuel the spiritual fire of a child the Spirit of Truth will ever speak, saying "This is the way."
One of the major avenues available to me to promote truth is through the day care center where I work. God has blessed me with the care of 250 children and their families,as well as the staff at the center. Because it is a public daycare, I have to be very careful about how I express "religion" although it's common knowledge to all who know me that I love God. I often express to children in groups and privately the simple concept that God lives in each of us as a light to show the way.
Twice a week I read stories to a group of 30 or more children, ages 5 to 11. The day care has a huge collection of excellent children's stories and we read them every afternoon at snack time. Over the years I have learned that story telling has more teaching impact on children than reading, so I decided to try it. As I sat down with a good story in my lap to read, it spontaneously occurred to me to recount one of my favorite stories from The Urantia Book, the story of the first human family. I knew it well, having read it many times. At first I stumbled, but soon I was effortlessly telling the story of the first humans,even embellishing my familiar understanding of the story. What amazed me was the rapt attention of every child listening, regardless of age. They wanted to know if the story was true, and how long ago it happened. They asked questions like, "Were they born just like us?" "When did they become humans?" and "What made them different?"
The language of religious teachings has to be toned down for most children in order to hold their attention. If you have kids in the 5 to 11 age group, pick a meaningful story that you like and know well, and then tell it on family meeting night, or before going to bed, or while driving in the car. Jesus held the attention of children and adults alike by telling stories and parables; it is clearly a powerful teaching technique. Children, especially before adolescence, easily forgive any bumbled attempts at trying something new. A young adult once told me that the most powerful way in which her mother taught her about God was by telling stories while drawing out illustrations on a huge pad of paper. The poignancy and reality of emotion and concept which was portrayed in this way held this young person's mind and emotions throughout childhood. She believes that it played an essential part in her spiritual education.
Concept - Everyone Is A Member Of God's Family
Ceremony - Ritual Of Prayer & Candle Light:
Light a candle every night, once a week, at families meetings, on special holidays, or on any other occasion. (As children get older, allow them to have the privilege of lighting the candle.) After you light the candle, say a little prayer of thanks: "Thank you God for your love which shines upon our family, our neighborhood, our community, our town, our country, our world, and the whole universe. We know your divine Light is in everyone."
Activity - Collage of Humankind
(4 years and up)
Some old issues of good picture magazines like National Geographic and People, glue or glue sticks, scissors, and heavy paper on which to glue the pictures.
Cut out many diverse pictures of humanity and meaningful words or phases; include people of all colors, cultures, dress and environment, then paste them on the paper to make a collage.
This can be done individually on a medium size piece of construction paper as a group mural project on a large sheet of strong cardboard with a colorful backing. Try adding a caption to the collage such as: "All people are brothers and sisters in the Family of God."
The brotherhood of men is founded on the fatherhood of God. The family of God is derived from the love of God - God is love. God the Father divinely loves his children, all of them. ~ The Urantia Book, 134:4.1
Suggested Adult Reading: The Spirit in Man, ~ The Urantia Book, 34:6.1
Concept - The Part And The Whole
Field Trip - The Roving Reporter
(8 years to young adult)
Go some place where there are many diverse people, such as a shopping mall, downtown area, or amusement park. On this field trip each child plays the role of a journalist assigned to report on the various kinds of people they observe. Provide a pad and pencil for them to take notes and afterwards ask them to write their article on what similarities and differences they noticed.
Activity - A Fragment of God
(6 to 12 years)
Spend some time working together on a beautiful jigsaw puzzle, preferable one with 1000 pieces or more. It should be set up someplace where family or group members can work on it over a period of time. This provides an excellent opportunity to point out how each piece is a part of the whole. When the puzzle is done, admire the wholeness of it, and use it as a metaphor to illustrate the wholeness of God. Have the children each choose and remove one piece of the puzzle, which represents them as a part of God's creation. Discuss how important each piece is to the wholeness of God, and how much more lovely the puzzle is when no pieces are missing. This is also symbolic of how each person holds a part of God, which is unique and irreplaceable. Point out that God never runs out of pieces. Note: For younger children a smaller puzzle can be used.
Activity - Paper Chain
Per child provide 2 each of 8 different colored sheets of paper (preferably red, yellow, orange, green, blue, white, purple, and black), a small stapler, or glue.
Cut all the colored sheets into strips about 2 inches wide. (A paper cutter helps tremendously if this activity is to be with a group of children.)
Children select from the colored strips (that can represent the many colors and kinds of people in the world) and build a chain, which they make by gluing or stapling a strip into a circle and adding similar links as they go.
For groups, the chains can be hooked together to make a longer chain, which can then be used to decorate a room, a tree or bushes.
Affirmations can be written on the pieces of paper before they are made into chains, such as: "God loves everyone." "We are all connected." "What I do affects others."
And this brotherhood, being universal, is a relationship of the whole. Brotherhood, when universal, discloses not the each relationship, but the all relationship. ~ The Urantia Book, 12:7.10
The part profits or suffers in measure with the whole. The good effort of each man benefits all men; the error or evil of each man augments the tribulation of all men. ~The Urantia Book, 12:7.11
Throughout the universe, every unit is regarded as a part of the whole. ~ The Urantia Book, 3:5.15
Every impulse of every electron, thought, or spirit is an acting unit in the whole universe. ~ The Urantia Book, 56:10.14
Suggested Adult Reading: The Part And The Whole, ~ The Urantia Book, 12:7.1
Concept - God Lives Within Me
Activity - Jewel Inside Me
(3 to 12 years)
Give each child a lump of clay and a jewel (anything pretty and shiny, but not expensive). Discuss how God lives in each person as they mold a figure of themselves with the clay. When the figure is done, ask each child to push the jewel into the heart area of the figure. The figure can be kept as a reminder that God lives in the heart of each one of his children.
Activity - The Gift of God
(3 to 12 years)
Give each child an inexpensive "jewel" inside a small box wrapped with beautiful paper. When the gift is opened and the jewel is found, explain to the child that this is to keep as a reminder of the beautiful gift of God's Spirit that lives within them.
Activity - The Light Of God Within
The LIGHT OF GOD is a theme for expression using colorful makers, pencils, crayons, and paints. It can be great fun to imagine how God's light shines through us, and what that might look like. Perhaps it bursts through our minds and lights us up all over. Children can draw or paint pictures or a mural showing their own creative expressions of this.
Ceremony - Receiving God's Spirit
(Between the ages of 5 and 6 years old)
A simple ceremony can be held to acknowledge this amazing gift. For this special ceremony you can either gather a group of extended family and friends or keep it to immediate family. The occasion should be one of celebration - like a party. A short ceremony of 15 minutes is about right for children of this age.
The following is but one idea for such a ceremony:
As the ceremony begins explain to the child, "We are celebrating the fact that the Spirit of God lives in your heart, and that He is love. His light will live in you forever. His love will shine from you forever."
A blue ribbon with a badge connected to it that states, "God Lives In Me" is hung around the child's neck. The child's name and the date can also be inscribed on the back of the badge. Everyone at the ceremony is given a candle (with a drip protector) to hold. One of the child's parents lights their own candle saying, "My candle represents the light of God. I will light your candle with this symbol of His light." When this is done, everyone attending steps up to light their candle from the child's candle to signify that each child brings God's light into the world. This can be followed by a group song or cheer. The ceremony can be individualized according to the wishes of the parents.
Following the ceremony a simple prayer of thanksgiving may be said:
"Thank you Father/Mother God for giving your most precious gift of Spirit to live in this child, to be with them and guide them all their lives."
A special and beautiful certificate can be given to the child acknowledging God's special gift.
A box wrapped in beautiful paper with a small "jewel" inside can be given to the child to unwrap
Unless a divine lover lived in man, he could not unselfishly and spiritually love. Unless an interpreter lived in the mind, man could not truly realize the unity of the universe. Unless an evaluator dwelt with man, he could not possibly appraise moral values and recognize spiritual meanings. And this lover hails from the very source of infinite love; this interpreter is a part of Universal Unity; this evaluator is the child of the Center and Source of all absolute values of divine and eternal reality. ~ The Urantia Book, 196:3.16
How To Enhance The Meaning
Whenever possible try to incorporate music in, around, or behind sacred activities. The best instruments are ones that are fun and easy for children to use, such as: good sounding drums; egg shakers, rhythm sticks, chimes, and triangles. Have on hand a CD/cassette player with a broad variety of music from many cultures to play while the children are engaged in an activity.
The most reverent place for a child to be is out in nature. Go for a walk around the block or a climb a mountain. Share the beauty of a sunset and/or a sunrise with them. Get them out into the night to look at the stars, and point out some of the basic constellations and how the patterns are part of a whole. Help them to fully experience their senses by accentuating the feel of a gentle breeze when it caresses their skin; the taste of nectar at the end of a honey suckle blossom; the way leaves sparkle in the sun; the joyous sound of wild birds in spring; or the deep rich earthen smell of the forest. Nature is full of magical metaphors that reflect divine patterns.
(5 to 12 years)
Create a soft ambiance of reverence by dimming the lights, using good incense or essential oil, playing soft music, and lighting some candles. Provide beanbags, pillows, or mats on the floor for the children to sit on. Ask them to put their thumb and middle finger together as they rest their hands on their knees. Encourage them to sit up straight and take deep breaths. Have them close their eyes and concentrate on being inside themselves. Briefly explain to them that chanting OM helps people to focus and relax. You may even choose Tibetan monks chanting OM as your background music. After taking three deep breaths, begin to chant OM and the children will soon join you. Keep it up for 3 or 4 minutes or until everyone has chanted at least 8 full OM's. It can take a few times before the children lose their self-consciousness. (I do this regularly with a group of 50 children, ages 5-11, at the daycare care center where I work, who now ask me if they can OM.)
Once they are deep in a super-conscious state, lead the children through a meditative visualization. Here is an example one you can use: "You are in a room which feels too warm and closed in. Outside, the evening is just beginning, and you want to go out to watch the moon come up, and feel the cool freshness of the air, and see the first stars come out. So you open the door and walk out of the room into the night. As you get outside, you notice a hill, and you know that if you walk up the hill you will have a much better view of the sky and the moon when it comes up. As you begin to walk up the hill, you take a deep breath of fresh air, and marvel at the last rays of the setting sun. Although you feel safe, you also feel alone.
You remember that you have a special angel that you can call on to walk with you. At once you feel her presence beside you. You know that she has joined you because you feel lighter when she's there, and you don't feel alone anymore. Your angel is with you. When you get to the top of the hill you can look out in every direction. To the East you see the first sliver of the huge full moon coming up over the horizon. As it gets a little darker, you point out Venus ¯ the first star of the evening ¯ to your angel. Then you look for three stars in a row - the belt of Orion. As your eyes become used to the darkness you notice more and more stars coming out to greet you and your angel. Soon the sky is filled with a full round moon and stars everywhere you look. There are billions of stars and they seem to spiral up into infinity, like a stairway to God. Your heart swells with thankfulness for God who created this magnificent night sky that you see. You imagine that, at this very moment, somewhere in the universe, there other people who are looking up into the night sky thanking God for its creation. You begin to feel sleepy as you try to imagine how big the universe is. So you lie down on the hill and close your eyes while your angel sings a special song just for you. You feel God's love cover you like a soft warm blanket. Your angel carries you back into this room and lays you very gently on the floor. She blows on your eyelids and you open your eyes and thank her for being your friend.
Gather some beautiful scarves of different colors, about 4 or 5 feet long. Try to include black satin too, as some children like dark colors. Put on some music, like Mozart for Children, and dance freestyle with them, holding the veils with both hands while running, bending, skipping, and lying down. Help the children create a drama with the colors, giving each child chance to "perform". Create a story as they move: Once upon a time the world was always dark. God made the sun to shine and then there was not only the darkness of night, but also the lightness of day. The daylight made the flowers grow (all the colors dancing and moving) but it also made them hot and thirsty. They needed water (enter blue) so God sent water for the flowers…. and so on. Stories don't have to be about God to allow emotions to be expressed. Children can readily create their own living myths.
Most children will respond well to warm, loving touch. Children can also be encouraged to touch each other in appropriate and loving ways through massage.
Family or group can sit in a circle. Each places their hands on the shoulders of the one in front and kneads. The circle can be turned around with each one facing the opposite direction.
For each pair (the person massaging and the one being massaged), provide a bucket of warm soapy water, some good aromatic massage oil, and a large towel for drying.
The child who will be receiving the foot massage should wash their feet in the bucket of soapy water, dry them off well with the towel, and relax in a chair. The child giving the massage will sit in front of them, pick up one of their feet, put a small amount of the aromatic oil on it, and massage it well with their hands. Then the children can switch roles. It may be hard to get them to try it, but once they do, they greatly enjoy the experience giving and receiving loving touch. This can be a wonderful way to teach altruistic service, and meaning can be added by first reading the story of how Jesus washed and anointed the apostles' feet. (A good trick is to use really delicious smelling oil.)
Affirmations can be used in many ways on a regular basis and are always effective.
The following affirmations can be said or read by individuals or groups:
The light of God has been given to me. It is in me.
I will follow God's light and it will show me the best way to walk each day.
I carry a spark of God's divinity in my heart.
My body is the temple of God; I will honor the temple and take care of it.
God's light is in everyone. I can see God shining in each person I meet.
I kindle the spark of God within me by talking with God as a friend in my own heart and mind.
I kindle the spark of God within me by helping those around me.
I kindle the spark of God within me by thanking God for life and family and friends.
Creating a sacred space in the home
An altar can provide a focus for the experience of feeling the sacred in everyday life. It provides a dedicated space where individual family members or even the family group can go and be with God, a place to feel the reality of God's love. It can and often does become an integral part of the home life. Not that a person can't be with God where ever they happen to be, to the contrary, a feeling of the sacredness in all things is desirable. An altar is merely one way to help facilitate feelings of sacredness, reverence, and awe, by reflecting in some way common values held most dear. Establishing a sacred space in the home helps an individual feel the values of truth, beauty,goodness and love.
An altar can be a space set aside for worship and prayer, for honoring the patterns of divinity found in and around us, or for bringing God closer to us through the use of meaningful symbols. It can be all of the above and more. Children especially respond to beauty and deeply appreciate items found in nature.
The entire family can be involved in creating the altar. It is often better to allow the altar to evolve, as items are added and subtracted on a daily, weekly or special occasion basis.
How to Begin
Find or create a space in your home or yard that the family agrees upon. It can be out of the way, if the family desires a quiet area, or in a main living area, if the family desires a daily reminder of the sacred. If younger children are involved, the parents may want to create the altar initially, but as children get older they will greatly enjoy adding their own ideas and symbols to it.
Creating a Space
The space should include a platform upon which family members can arrange their meaningful items. Beauty is an essential part in the creation of a sacred space. We naturally seek and love beauty because it stimulates our minds to attain higher spiritual levels of thought. Using items from nature such as a small tree, plant, rock or shell can help create a beautiful effect. Fabric stores carry many exquisite materials, which can be used to adorn the altar and accentuate the items placed there. A fluid altar is always nice because the family can decide to change it from time to time. This allows each member of the family an opportunity at implementing their ideas.
Elements Which Can Be Added to the Altar
- Candles (Obviously only to remain lit while an adult is present!)
- Mandalas - There are excellent mandala coloring books, which can colored in by family members or beautiful mandala art can be purchased as well.
- Items from nature - Rocks, Shells, Leaves, Plants, Twigs, Nests, Blossoms, Driftwood
- Music - CD's or tapes offering a variety of music to appeal to different tastes and instruments to be played, such as a flute, chimes, ocarina, drum, or harmonica.
- Symbols - Symbols honoring different religious paths; a statue of Christ, angels or the Buddha, some Tibetan meditation bells or a Native American God's eye.
- Meaningful Sayings - Powerful bits of wisdom from any of The World's Great Religious Texts, can add contemplative thought and meaning.
- Religious Books - A religious book such as the Bible, the Koran, Upanishads, Torah or (for me) The Urantia Book, can be an essential piece.
- A Favorite Prayer - A favorite prayer is always a beautiful addition.
- Family Pictures - Members of the family and friends to be remembered in prayer.
Family members can have their own quiet moments at the altar, or a family can gather around the altar at special times, like before or after a family meeting. The altar can provide a place for prayers, quiet meditation, songs, and readings of beautiful or meaningful material, as well powerful moments of grief or joy.
History of the Altar
The Urantia Book presents some interesting historical facts about altars. It could be a valuable for family members to discuss the evolution of the altar.
Here are just a few tidbits from The Urantia Book on altars:
Altar fires and lighted candles were considered the best means of resisting ghosts and evil spirits ~ The Urantia Book, 83:4.6
The hearth or fireplace became a sacred spot. Stone altars were thought to be dwelling places of God. ~ The Urantia Book, 88:2.1
The Urantia Book says that Jesus wrote out The Lord's Prayer on a "...piece of smooth cedar board about eighteen inches square, with a piece of charcoal...." and it could be assumed that this became a part of his family's altar.)
An altar can be built temporarily on a mountaintop, on the beach, in the desert, or by a lake. A space can be created in a moment to honor the sacred moments in human experience anywhere, anytime. It is a simple and effective way to create a sense of the sacred in our everyday lives.
Holidays are a wonderful time to create a sense of sacredness for kids. Christmas has an overwhelming aspect for kids because the excitement of presents can easily eclipse the "real" meaning. This can happen with Easter as well, but not so easily. This is not to say that holidays shouldn't be fun. Fun and celebration work well when interspersed with the "sacred".
The story of Easter and the circumstances of Jesus' death and resurrection is without a doubt one the most poignant and emotionally moving stories in history. Since emotions are the gateway to the mind, one can use this story to stir the emotions of children. The story is rich with lessons of courage, betrayal, injustice, loyalty, faith, love, forgiveness, eternal life, and submission to God's will. The fact that it happens in springtime adds all the more meaning, because spring is laden with metaphors about renewal, which appeal to the deepest part of our spiritual nature.
Drawing from personal experience, I remember when my own son was between the ages of about 5 and 10. He was very interested in weapons - swords in particular. I would read and embellish the Easter story for him every year, clarifying it when the words or concepts were too complicated. Even as a child of 5 my son was enthralled and filled with emotion as Jesus standing before Judas, who had just kissed him, asked the captain of the Roman guards, "Whom do you seek?" and when the Roman guard answered, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus replied: "I have told you that I am he. If, therefore, you seek me, let these others go their way. I am ready to go with you."
He marveled to hear how Peter drew his sword and led the other apostles forward to smite the Romans. But before he could, Jesus raised a forbidding hand and spoke sternly, saying: "Peter, put up your sword. They who take the sword shall perish by the sword. Do you not understand that it is the Father's will that I drink this cup? And do you not further know that I could even now command more than twelve legions of angels and their associates, who would deliver me from the hands of these few men?"
Stories such as this can easily lead to a discussion about how many angels it takes to make up twelve legions. Children in general seem to love big numbers. It is astounding to ponder how many angels were available to Jesus at that very moment - an angelic army made up of 71,663,616 individual angels. It can be a provocative and interesting discussion to explore why Jesus chose not to call on even just a few of these angels to save him.
Often, when adults read familiar religious stories to children, their own passion is aroused in such a way that it greatly enhances everyone's enjoyment of the tale. An annual reading of these stories is one easy way to create a meaningful holiday tradition between you and your child.
The sacred traditions of groups, such as churches, often employ powerful music and ceremonial services,especially at Easter time, but if your family doesn't go to church, perhaps there is something you can do at home or with a group of likeminded friends.
The family that I grew up in kept the common Easter traditions. In addition to buying new Easter clothes to show off in Sunday school, we colored and hunted for Easter eggs, found our baskets filled with candy on Easter morning, went to public Easter egg hunts, and ate way too much food with family and friends. Being the oldest of 6 kids and having a difficult home life made these traditions a restful and fun celebration for us all.
In the last several years, members of my faith family (my religious community) have attempted to vary these traditions with the hope of adding more meaning. The day before Easter, three of our "men folk" walk up a big hill, which overlooks the Carquinez Straits. (This has become a kind of pilgrimage for these men.) Each man carries a backpack containing Easter rocks (approximately one to two inches in diameter) that are all painted in the same beautiful color, a color that differs from year to year. Some of the rocks have a meaningful statement painted on them in gold. We commonly use statements like; "You are a child of God" or "The Universe is a friendly place" or "God is the eternal flame within you" or "Jesus came to show us the way",etc. The men scatter the painted rocks over a square block area covered with dill, which makes them difficult to find.
Early the next morning about 25 of us gather with our children, blankets, food, sacred books, and musical instruments to trudge up the long hill together. It is a challenging walk and upon reaching the summit, we lay out our blankets and settle in with a breathtaking view of the Straits. We then read the story of Jesus' resurrection from both The Urantia Book and the Bible, sing songs, play instruments and have a remembrance (communion) of Jesus with bread and juice. Young and old alike have a wonderful time.
Then begins the Easter Rock hunt, when the children and teens search for the beautifully colored rocks. The older children invariably help the younger ones find the colored treasures. They collect the rocks in bags,which can get quite heavy, and when most have been found, we all come back to the blankets to count them. The "prize rocks" are the ones with sayings on them, and who ever find these rocks gets to read them aloud to the group. Prizes are awarded for the fewest found and the most found, the biggest rock and the littlest. And because we almost never find all the rocks in a given year, special recognition goes to those who find rocks that were hidden in previous years.
After we go back down the hill we celebrate with a potluck brunch together. We all look forward to this meaningful ritual in my community because it is spiritual, fluid, fun, and because it fulfills some basic human needs for body, mind, and spirit.
Each family or community develops its own meaningful holiday traditions. We would love to hear what yours are. If you don't have a family or group to celebrate with, take comfort in the knowledge that the Spirit of Jesus, as well your guardian angels are there to celebrate with your soul, and help you to be inspired and uplifted.
Someone asked me once what my wife Diana and I did to encourage our daughter's spiritual development:
We took long walks in the beautiful mountains where we live while Diana was pregnant. We gave our baby a spiritually symbolic name. We had soft music playing and soft lighting in the room where she was born. She was immediately placed at her mother's breast following her birth. I bathed her an hour or two after she was born while Diana rested.
We read children's books with a spiritual theme from many different religions, and recited prayers from many traditions from the time she was tiny. Most evenings, barring rain, I would take her out at sunset and we would say "Good-Bye Sun, See You Tomorrow!" We read the classic fairytales. For years, we told her "Sweet Dreams" which was our way of saying "Bedtime Stories." These were spontaneous guided imageries (sometimes I could feel our spirits communicating), always beautiful and positive, and often contained spiritual symbolism.
As she grew we nearly always said or sung various graces at dinner (at least).We encouraged her to pray to her Heavenly Father in her own words and modeled this occasionally. We spoke openly with her about Guardian Angels We played spiritual music and story tapes in the car (along with just fun stuff).We sang chants and danced Sufi dances. She went to a week long Sufi Camp with us when she was about two. Star and I often had discussions about God where I would share my faith and belief's and would listen openly to hers. I treasure those conversations and would always let her know so.
She often attended our small religious study groups and activities over the years, and I have shared with her particular and pertinent passages (pure poetry!) throughout the years. We attended our little Catholic church sporadically and she was baptized and made her first communion, but I have also spoken frankly to her on my feelings regarding the atonement doctrine and original sin.
We would often practice and sing with the North San Juan Community Choir for Christmas as a family. I gave her a copy of the URANTIA Book for her 16th birthday as she had been asking about it. She is not much of a reader (of anything) but will willingly listen when I or someone else reads from the Book. We've always talked to her and listened acceptingly to her.
I guess in the end, the best way to encourage the inner light to come forth from a glowing Star is to fill it with love and just let it shine.
Helping Children Find & Use Their Abilities
Perspective and Interpretation from The Urantia Book on Guiding Children to Find and Use Their Abilities
It would appear that one of our main responsibilities as adults — teachers, parents and friends of children — is to help guide, stimulate, and challenge them to find and actualize their "God-given" abilities. Actually, The Urantia Book teaches that "God-given" is not an accurate term, as God does not arbitrarily give the gift of special ability. So what does the book say are the sources of "special human ability"?
"There are three possible sources of special human ability. At the bottom always there exists the natural or inherent aptitude. Special ability is never an arbitrary gift of the Gods; there is always an ancestral foundation for every outstanding talent." (The Urantia Book, 44:8.2) The Urantia Book makes a distinction between 'ability' and 'skill': From the dictionary ability is: "the power to do something; skill, expertise, talent, capacity or tendency." From The Urantia Book : "Ability is that which you inherit, while skill is what you acquire.....Skill is one of the real sources of the satisfaction of living. Ability implies the gift of foresight, farseeing vision." (The Urantia Book, 160:4.11)
Leadership as an ability is mentioned many times by the authors of The Urantia Book, they seem to be concerned about the quality of human leadership. "Leadership is dependent on natural ability, discretion, will power, and determination." (The Urantia Book, 156:5.7)
I have heard perceptive teachers express concern about the current trend of giving drugs to some of our more active children, the vast majority of which are boys, so that they will be able to sit longer in the classroom. Research has shown that children who seem to have leadership abilities often have a difficult time waiting, sitting, and listening to others. They have a drive to be FIRST in line trying to get ahead of the other children. Some children may have to take drugs to help them attend and control themselves, but adults should make every effort to be sure we are also helping them to use their energy in positive ways instead of suppressing it.
This is just my personal opinion, but I suggest we should continue to explore the research before we give children drugs to quell what might be their natural leadership abilities.
How can we identify the abilities which our children may inherit? Perhaps it will be helpful to look at a method which is being recognized within some of the more advanced educational systems — researcher Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences.
Gardner has now identified nine intelligences, i.e. abilities, and styles of learning. Many of us have most of them, but there are usually one or two that are dominant. And some children show outstanding "special ability" in certain of these. A study of this list of nine intelligences and abilities may help you discover personal strengths and abilities for yourself and your children.
Of course Gardner's work provides just one model, but it's one that is being recognized by some forward looking schools across the United States. If you find your child has a special ability you may want to further this by providing environments that are conducive to discovering more about his or her abilities or specific training. For instance, if you find your child learns best by the kinesthetic intelligence — has an ability to learn by doing — and loves to make people laugh through drama, you may consider providing a special trunk full of props such as hats, wands, swords, wigs, pieces of material, etc., allowing for more creative expression of this ability.
You may find that your child seems to be obsessive about a specific intelligence, such as reading 10 books a week, you may want to provide alternative experiences which will help create balance and develop other intelligences such as walks in nature, art, music, or sports.
Following is Howard Gardner's list of nine multiple intelligences:
1) Linguistic and Verbal:
Strength in the language arts such as talking, listening, writing and reading. Children who are expert with words can often not only be quite successful in school, but they can manipulate their parents with skillful verbal negotiations. Poets and playwrights, TV and radio personalities all show high ability in this intelligence. Children high in this intelligence/ability learn easily from books, enjoy jokes, puns, riddles, and tongue twisters, live with their nose in a book and might enjoy word games.
2) Logical and Mathematical:
The ability with numbers, problem solving, and logical reasoning such as required in the sciences. Children who have this ability as a strength might like to collect and sort things, can figure out many math problems in their heads, are good at estimating mathematical answers and want to know why they need to do something. They enjoy analyzing situations and are born questioners. Logical answers appeal to them and they might want to have pros and cons listed when they are asked to do something by their parents or teachers.
3) Spatial and Visual:
The ability to form a mental model of a spatial world and to be able to maneuver and operate using that model. Sailors, engineers, surgeons, sculptors, and painters have highly developed spatial intelligence. Children with this ability as a strength will like to create pictures and sculptures,draw, paint, doodle and usually have a good imagination.
4) Musical intelligence:
The ability to enjoy and learn well through songs, patterns, rhythms, instruments and musical expression. They may enjoy humming and tapping their feet. Remembering songs and words to songs may come easily to them. They may like to make up their own songs. Leonard Bernstein had lots of this intelligence; Mozart presumably, had even more.
5) Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence:
The ability to solve problems or to make things using one's whole body, or parts of the body. Learning occurs best through activity such as games, movement, hands-on tasks and building. Sitting still is very difficult. Some of these people might be called "overly active" in situations where much sitting is required. Some of the best thinking is often done while doing something physical. Dancers, athletes, surgeons, craftspeople all exhibit highly developed bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.
6) Interpersonal intelligence:
The ability to understand other people; an interest in what motivates them, how they work and how to work cooperatively with them. These children do their best learning in groups or with a partner. They may be described as "too talkative" or too concerned with what others are doing. They are good team players and others may come to this person for help or advice. They are good at sensing how others are feeling. Successful salespeople, politicians, teachers, clinicians, and religious leaders are all likely to be individual with high degrees of interpersonal intelligence.
7) Intrapersonal intelligence:
The ability to "know oneself", to be in touch with one's thoughts, values and feelings. These children are quite intuitive about what they learn and how it relates to themselves. They like being quiet and are often defined as reserved or introverted or thinking or dreaming types. Keeping a personal diary and listing personal goals along with a strong sense of independence from others is a characteristic. Spending time alone is a form of entertainment. These folks think it's more important to do what they think is right rather than what others might think is right.
8) Naturalist intelligence:
The ability to be connected or tuned in with nature, plants, the elements and animals. They love the outdoors and can learn a great deal by experiencing all aspects of nature by being in it rather than learning about it through text books. Geologists, biologists, horticulturists, oceanographers, and weather people have a high degree of this ability.
The ability to learn about the bigger context - the "big picture" of existence. These children ask "Why are we here?" and "What is our role in the world?" They like looking at where humankind stand in relation to the "whole universe". This intelligence is seen in philosophers and perhaps even theologians. (This newly understood ability is still being defined.)
(There are many sites on the web to learn more about Multiple Intelligences as identified by Professor Howard Gardner of Harvard University.)
Keep in mind that adults should not force children to do something for which they have no ability such as playing sports when they are artists. "Ability is the practical measure of life's opportunities. You will never be held responsible for the accomplishment of that which is beyond your abilities." (The Urantia Book, 171:8)
Concerning "special ability" The Urantia Book teaches that celestial help is provided "to the naturally gifted individuals of the mortal races." It teaches that certain spirit helpers conspire to "assist those mortal artists who posses inherent endowments." The guides and teachers often "act as harmonizers of these talents and otherwise to assist and inspire these mortals to seek for ever-perfecting ideals and to attempt their enhanced portrayal for the edification of the realm." (The Urantia Book, 44:8.1) How amazing to ponder that learning more about our children's abilities and our own, and how to bring them from potentials to actuals, not only helps us to develop these gifts, but may actually be furthering the ability of spirit artisans to work effectively with us.
Self Help for Forming a Philosophy of Parenting,
Using The Urantia Book as a Guide
As we are not alone in the universe, neither we are not alone in our parenting. God has provided parents with every possible guide, but sometimes we feel alone, even if we are parenting with our spouse, and we have the support of extended and chose family and community.
There are times in the every day nitty gritty of work, school, eating, diapers, and the traumas and crisis of parenthood when we do not FEEL that we are being very spiritual in our parenting, nor do we even FEEL the Spirit is with us. We shout, get impatient, blame, shake the finger, bribe and allow TV just to keep them out of the way and quiet. Where is the spirit in this?
What is spiritual parenting and how is it different from just "parenting"?
The difference is one of perspective and goals, values and meanings. The "techniques" of discipline that parents use could well be the same as they deal with their kids bursting through the limits, wanting their own pleasures, whining when things don't go their way, fighting with their siblings, etc. As is obvious to most parents children are capable of learning manifold techniques of their own, albeit it unconsciously, to manipulate their world to satisfy their momentary pleasures.
Spiritual Parenting indicates several crucial assumptions of parenting:
- We believe we are parenting children of God who have the potential to live forever;
- We have faith that the "spirit" can work with us, guide us, strengthen us, comfort us, and give us the bigger picture as we work with our children.
Kahlil Gibran states these two premises of Spiritual Parenting poetically in The Prophet :
"You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness; For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable."
The most empowering TRUTH of The Urantia Book is the FACT that we mortals have been created by our spiritual parent who loves us with an infinite love, and whom we can love in return. Because we can experience this quality of relationship in our individual personal private life, we can know the reality of the experience of the highest LOVE relationship in the universe. This personal experience gives us a foundational pattern with which to parent our children.
Another aspect of The Urantia Book is that it provides us with answers to questions which have been asked for eons and eons. Answers that we could have had, should have had from at least the days of Adam and Eve, if not earlier. We were supposed to have two planetary headquarters established on our planet. It would be considered "normal" to tell our children there IS a God, a loving God; it IS a friendly universe; they can decide to live forever; God lives in them and in everyone else, making all brothers and sisters and the most profound truth of all: God is our loving spiritual parent - each of our children has a perfect loving spiritual parent. These simple basic truths parents are struggling with daily as their children ask universal questions about the macro and micro universes - "Who made the stars?" "Where did grandpa go when he died?" "Why does God allow such bad things to happen to my friend?" As we help our children explore the answers to these questions we are helping them form a philosophy of living. We no longer have to spend precious time and energy figuring our IF we should tell our children there is a God, IF we should give them hope of eternal life, IF we should lead them to believe it is a friendly universe, FOR WE KNOW THESE ARE TRUTHS. We need to figure out in our own styles and ways how best to guide and ground our children in these truths, to encourage them to discover others truths and to release their personality potential, expanding the possibilities of their life through the adventures of self discovery and joys of service.
On this site we will uncover and share ways of putting into practice principals of spiritual parenting, discovering how we can work with the Spirit in our parenting practices. We will use not only The Urantia Book, which may be a foundational book for some, but also weave the tapestry with some of the more clearly written and respected literature of the day from professionals in the realms of sociology, psychology, neurosciences, recreation, art, education and child development.
There are several foundational quotes from The Urantia Book upon which we can build A Philosophy of Parenting:
"It is to the mind of perfect poise, housed in a body of clean habits, stabilized neural energies, and balanced chemical function - when the physical, mental and spiritual powers are in triune harmony of development - that a maximum of light and truth can be imparted ...." The Urantia Book, (110:6.4)
"Children are permanently impressed only by the loyalties of their adult associates; percept or even example is not lastingly influential." The Urantia Book, (100:1.4)
Even deeply spiritual people may not think that the realm of philosophy applies to the training and education of children. Granted, children do pick up a philosophy of living unconsciously from their parents. However, deliberately bringing philosophy into the light of a child's consciousness, by grasping any opportunity to help them creatively evolve their own personal philosophy of living, has tremendous value.
I would like to share an experience I had one evening recently with 3 children who are being brought up in a home of conscious spirituality and values, having been "primed" to be receptive to enlightened exploration.
It all began as a very mundane, material level of card playing. We four were playing a vigorous game of quadruple solitaire — just like solitary solitaire, but with four playing instead of one. I have found that many children love the energy and competitiveness of this game.
As we were playing it became obvious that some strategies worked and some didn't. We began to comment on these occasionally saying things like, "Stop whining" or "Don't just sit there, do something."
Halfway through the game we decided we would find parallels to the card game and the "game of life" when we were done playing. I also suggested that when we finished the game we could recall which game strategies worked and which didn't and write these discoveries down.
The children ranged from 7 to 14 years of age, and they all enjoyed this "philosophizing" as I called it. It's nothing more than developing a way of thinking about living, an art of living, that can make life better for people just like the solitaire game can be made better by game strategies.
From this exercise, the children and I came up with a list of "Parallels to Life." The oldest girl said she thought it would make a good essay for one of her English classes. I definitely agreed. When the children's parents got home we read the list to them and they clapped with delight. Here is what we came up with:
Parallels between playing a good game of solitaire and playing a good game of life
- You can't stop just because things aren't going well.
- If you get stuck, you can ask others to help you to see things you may not see.
- You can't peek ahead and look at the unturned cards.
- You can't waste time focusing on plays you missed.
- You must think positively — if you say things like, "I am not going to do any good in this game!" you will be negatively programming yourself.
- You must keep aware of the whole situation — what others are doing and what is going on where everyone is playing.
- Saying, "I wish" doesn't help.
- Saying, "If only" doesn't help.
- Whining doesn't help.
- You donut know if you are going to win or lose.
- It doesn't matter if you win or lose — it's how you play the game.
- Having fun is important.
- You can't stop and wait for one particular play to happen while you are passing up other plays.
- Take advantage of what you have been given to play with.
- Luck is a part of it.
- It is fun to see others win.
- It feels good to win yourself too.
- When things are too intense, take a deep breath.
We could have gone on but we got enough out of this.
This kind of "philosophizing" can probably be done with most games and activities that adults do with children. It's important to let the discovery come from them. If they are the ones discovering these little gems, they will own them. Parents need only ask the pertinent questions and act as a stimulus, just get the ball rolling and everyone will enjoy the excitement of this thinking game. If only two little gems of wisdom are gleaned from a particular occasion, that is just fine.
Do let us know how it goes if you try "philosophizing" with your kids while playing games or doing life activities. It can be quite fun and helpful to "flesh out" these kinds of activities with philosophical meaning.
Almost everything of lasting value in civilization has its roots in the family. The family was the first successful peace group, the man and woman learning how to adjust their antagonisms while at the same time teaching the pursuits of peace to their children. ~ The Urantia Book, (68:2.8)
The size of the family has always been influenced by the standards of living. The higher the standard the smaller the family, up to the point of established status or gradual extinction. ~ The Urantia Book, (68:6.6)
Mating is purely an act of self-perpetuation associated with varying degrees of self-gratification; marriage, home building, is largely a matter of self-maintenance, and it implies the evolution of society. Society itself is the aggregated structure of family units. Individuals are very temporary as planetary factors—only families are continuing agencies in social evolution. The family is the channel through which the river of culture and knowledge flows from one generation to another. ~ The Urantia Book, (84:0.2)
Growing Children and Family Life
It is enough of a reach of the material mind of the children of time to conceive of the Father in eternity. We know that any child can best relate himself to reality by first mastering the relationships of the child-parent situation and then by enlarging this concept to embrace the family as a whole. Subsequently the growing mind of the child will be able to adjust to the concept of family relations, to relationships of the community, the race, and the world, and then to those of the universe, the superuniverse, even the universe of universes. ~ The Urantia Book, (8:1.11)
While religious, social, and educational institutions are all essential to the survival of cultural civilization, the family is the master civilizer. A child learns most of the essentials of life from his family and the neighbors. ~ The Urantia Book, (82:0.2)
Young are usually born singly, multiple births being the exception, and the family life is fairly uniform on all types of planets. Sex equality prevails on all advanced worlds; male and female are equal in mind endowment and spiritual status. We do not regard a planet as having emerged from barbarism so long as one sex seeks to tyrannize over the other. ~ The Urantia Book, (49:4.4)
Family Membership Sometimes Necessitates Hardship
If an affectionate father of a large family chooses to show mercy to one of his children guilty of grievous wrongdoing, it may well be that the extension of mercy to this misbehaving child will work a temporary hardship upon all the other and well-behaved children. Such eventualities are inevitable; such a risk is inseparable from the reality situation of having a loving parent and of being a member of a family group. Each member of a family profits by the righteous conduct of every other member; likewise must each member suffer the immediate time-consequences of the misconduct of every other member. Families, groups, nations, races, worlds, systems, constellations, and universes are relationships of association which possess individuality; and therefore does every member of any such group, large or small, reap the benefits and suffer the consequences of the rightdoing and the wrongdoing of all other members of the group concerned. ~ The Urantia Book, (54:6.3)
We are all a part of the family of God, and we must therefore sometimes share in the family discipline. ~ The Urantia Book, (3:2.9)
Mother-Family and Father-Family
The mother-family was the only possible transition from the stage of group marriage in the horde to the later and improved home life of the polygamous and monogamous father-families. The mother-family was natural and biologic; the father-family is social, economic, and political. The persistence of the mother-family among the North American red men is one of the chief reasons why the otherwise progressive Iroquois never became a real state.
The stupendous change from the mother-family to the father-family is one of the most radical and complete right-about-face adjustments ever executed by the human race. This change led at once to greater social expression and increased family adventure. ~ The Urantia Book, (84:2.2)(Note: The following three quotes are from Paper 72, Government on a Neighboring Planet and concern aspects of family life on a near by inhabited world.)
- The average number of children in each family is five, and they are under the full control of their parents or, in case of the demise of one or both, under that of the guardians designated by the parental courts. It is considered a great honor for any family to be awarded the guardianship of a full orphan. Competitive examinations are held among parents, and the orphan is awarded to the home of those displaying the best parental qualifications.
- All sex instruction is administered in the home by parents or by legal guardians. Moral instruction is offered by teachers during the rest periods in the school shops, but not so with religious training, which is deemed to be the exclusive privilege of parents, religion being looked upon as an integral part of home life.
- In their philosophy, religion is the striving to know God and to manifest love for one's fellows through service for them, but this is not typical of the religious status of the other nations on this planet. Religion is so entirely a family matter among these people that there are no public places devoted exclusively to religious assembly. ~ The Urantia Book, (72:3.1)
The Family in Chinese Culture
The great strength in a veneration of ancestry is the value that such an attitude places upon the family. The amazing stability and persistence of Chinese culture is a consequence of the paramount position accorded the family, for civilization is directly dependent on the effective functioning of the family; and in Chinese culture the family attained a social importance, even a religious significance, approached by few other peoples. ~ The Urantia Book, (79:8.9)
The mechanical and religious developments of the white races have been of a high order, but they have never excelled the Chinese in family loyalty, group ethics, or personal morality. ~ The Urantia Book, (79:8.16)
The Function of Marriage in Family Life
The function of marriage in evolution is the insurance of race survival, not merely the realization of personal happiness; self-maintenance and self-perpetuation are the real objects of the home. Self-gratification is incidental and not essential except as an incentive insuring sex association. Nature demands survival, but the arts of civilization continue to increase the pleasures of marriage and the satisfactions of family life. ~ The Urantia Book, (68:2.9)
Marriage has been many times in jeopardy, and the marriage mores have drawn heavily on both property and religion for support; but the real influence which forever safeguards marriage and the resultant family is the simple and innate biologic fact that men and women positively will not live without each other, be they the most primitive savages or the most cultured mortals.
The family, which grows out of marriage, is itself a stabilizer of the marriage institution together with the property mores. Other potent factors in marriage stability are pride, vanity, chivalry, duty, and religious convictions. But while marriages may be approved or disapproved on high, they are hardly made in heaven. The human family is a distinctly human institution, an evolutionary development. Marriage is an institution of society, not a department of the church. True, religion should mightily influence it but should not undertake exclusively to control and regulate it. ~ The Urantia Book, (83:0.2)
The real test of marriage, all down through the ages, has been that continuous intimacy which is inescapable in all family life. Two pampered and spoiled youths, educated to expect every indulgence and full gratification of vanity and ego, can hardly hope to make a great success of marriage and home building—a life-long partnership of self-effacement, compromise, devotion, and unselfish dedication to child culture. ~ The Urantia Book, (83:7.6)
Marriage always has been and still is man's supreme dream of temporal ideality. Though this beautiful dream is seldom realized in its entirety, it endures as a glorious ideal, ever luring progressing mankind on to greater strivings for human happiness. But young men and women should be taught something of the realities of marriage before they are plunged into the exacting demands of the interassociations of family life; youthful idealization should be tempered with some degree of premarital disillusionment.
The youthful idealization of marriage should not, however, be discouraged; such dreams are the visualization of the future goal of family life. This attitude is both stimulating and helpful providing it does not produce an insensitivity to the realization of the practical and commonplace requirements of marriage and subsequent family life.
The ideals of marriage have made great progress in recent times; among some peoples woman enjoys practically equal rights with her consort. In concept, at least, the family is becoming a loyal partnership for rearing offspring, accompanied by sexual fidelity. But even this newer version of marriage need not presume to swing so far to the extreme as to confer mutual monopoly of all personality and individuality. Marriage is not just an individualistic ideal; it is the evolving social partnership of a man and a woman, existing and functioning under the current mores, restricted by the taboos, and enforced by the laws and regulations of society. ~ The Urantia Book, (83:8.6)
Marriage is the mother of all human institutions, for it leads directly to home founding and home maintenance, which is the structural basis of society. The family is vitally linked to the mechanism of self-maintenance; it is the sole hope of race perpetuation under the mores of civilization, while at the same time it most effectively provides certain highly satisfactory forms of self-gratification. The family is man's greatest purely human achievement, combining as it does the evolution of the biologic relations of male and female with the social relations of husband and wife.
Sex mating is instinctive, children are the natural result, and the family thus automatically comes into existence. As are the families of the race or nation, so is its society. If the families are good, the society is likewise good. The great cultural stability of the Jewish and of the Chinese peoples lies in the strength of their family groups.
Woman's instinct to love and care for children conspired to make her the interested party in promoting marriage and primitive family life. Man was only forced into home building by the pressure of the later mores and social conventions; he was slow to take an interest in the establishment of marriage and home because the sex act imposes no biologic consequences upon him. ~ The Urantia Book, (84:6.8)
Marriage, with children and consequent family life, is stimulative of the highest potentials in human nature and simultaneously provides the ideal avenue for the expression of these quickened attributes of mortal personality. The family provides for the biologic perpetuation of the human species. The home is the natural social arena wherein the ethics of blood brotherhood may be grasped by the growing children. The family is the fundamental unit of fraternity in which parents and children learn those lessons of patience, altruism, tolerance, and forbearance which are so essential to the realization of brotherhood among all men.
Human society would be greatly improved if the civilized races would more generally return to the family-council practices of the Andites. They did not maintain the patriarchal or autocratic form of family government. They were very brotherly and associative, freely and frankly discussing every proposal and regulation of a family nature.
In an ideal family filial and parental affection are both augmented by fraternal devotion.
Family life is the progenitor of true morality, the ancestor of the consciousness of loyalty to duty. The enforced associations of family life stabilize personality and stimulate its growth through the compulsion of necessitous adjustment to other and diverse personalities. But even more, a true family—a good family—reveals to the parental procreators the attitude of the Creator to his children, while at the same time such true parents portray to their children the first of a long series of ascending disclosures of the love of the Paradise parent of all universe children.
The great threat against family life is the menacing rising tide of self-gratification, the modern pleasure mania. The prime incentive to marriage used to be economic; sex attraction was secondary. Marriage, founded on self-maintenance, led to self-perpetuation and concomitantly provided one of the most desirable forms of self-gratification. It is the only institution of human society which embraces all three of the great incentives for living.
Originally, property was the basic institution of self-maintenance, while marriage functioned as the unique institution of self-perpetuation. Although food satisfaction, play, and humor, along with periodic sex indulgence, were means of self-gratification, it remains a fact that the evolving mores have failed to build any distinct institution of self-gratification. And it is due to this failure to evolve specialized techniques of pleasurable enjoyment that all human institutions are so completely shot through with this pleasure pursuit. Property accumulation is becoming an instrument for augmenting all forms of self-gratification, while marriage is often viewed only as a means of pleasure. And this overindulgence, this widely spread pleasure mania, now constitutes the greatest threat that has ever been leveled at the social evolutionary institution of family life, the home. ~ The Urantia Book, (84:7.28)
Religion Unifies Family Life
Social leadership is transformed by spiritual insight; religion prevents all collective movements from losing sight of their true objectives. Together with children, religion is the great unifier of family life, provided it is a living and growing faith. Family life cannot be had without children; it can be lived without religion, but such a handicap enormously multiplies the difficulties of this intimate human association. During the early decades of the twentieth century, family life, next to personal religious experience, suffers most from the decadence consequent upon the transition from old religious loyalties to the emerging new meanings and values. ~ The Urantia Book, (99:4.2)
The Family was at the Heart of Jesus' Teaching
The family occupied the very center of Jesus' philosophy of life—here and hereafter. He based his teachings about God on the family, while he sought to correct the Jewish tendency to over-honor ancestors. He exalted family life as the highest human duty but made it plain that family relationships must not interfere with religious obligations. He called attention to the fact that the family is a temporal institution; that it does not survive death. Jesus did not hesitate to give up his family when the family ran counter to the Father's will. He taught the new and larger brotherhood of man - the sons of God. In Jesus' time divorce practices were lax in Palestine and throughout the Roman Empire. He repeatedly refused to lay down laws regarding marriage and divorce, but many of Jesus' early followers had strong opinions on divorce and did not hesitate to attribute them to him. All of the New Testament writers held to these more stringent and advanced ideas about divorce except John Mark. ~ The Urantia Book, (140:8.14)
Jesus stated that a true family is founded on the following seven facts:
1. The fact of existence. The relationships of nature and the phenomena of mortal likenesses are bound up in the family: Children inherit certain parental traits. The children take origin in the parents; personality existence depends on the act of the parent. The relationship of father and child is inherent in all nature and pervades all living existences.
2. Security and pleasure. True fathers take great pleasure in providing for the needs of their children. Many fathers are not content with supplying the mere wants of their children but enjoy making provision for their pleasures also.
3. Education and training. Wise fathers carefully plan for the education and adequate training of their sons and daughters. When young they are prepared for the greater responsibilities of later life.
4. Discipline and restraint. Farseeing fathers also make provision for the necessary discipline, guidance, correction, and sometimes restraint of their young and immature offspring.
5. Companionship and loyalty. The affectionate father holds intimate and loving intercourse with his children. Always is his ear open to their petitions; he is ever ready to share their hardships and assist them over their difficulties. The father is supremely interested in the progressive welfare of his progeny.
6. Love and mercy. A compassionate father is freely forgiving; fathers do not hold vengeful memories against their children. Fathers are not like judges, enemies, or creditors. Real families are built upon tolerance, patience, and forgiveness.
7. Provision for the future. Temporal fathers like to leave an inheritance for their sons. The family continues from one generation to another. Death only ends one generation to mark the beginning of another. Death terminates an individual life but not necessarily the family. ~ The Urantia Book, (142:7.5)
Jesus On Early Home Life
In the course of this day's visiting with John Mark, Jesus spent considerable time comparing their early childhood and later boyhood experiences. Although John's parents possessed more of this world's goods than had Jesus' parents, there was much experience in their boyhood which was very similar. Jesus said many things which helped John better to understand his parents and other members of his family. When the lad asked the Master how he could know that he would turn out to be a "mighty messenger of the kingdom," Jesus said:
"I know you will prove loyal to the gospel of the kingdom because I can depend upon your present faith and love when these qualities are grounded upon such an early training as has been your portion at home. You are the product of a home where the parents bear each other a sincere affection, and therefore you have not been overloved so as injuriously to exalt your concept of self-importance. Neither has your personality suffered distortion in consequence of your parents' loveless maneuvering for your confidence and loyalty, the one against the other. You have enjoyed that parental love which insures laudable self-confidence and which fosters normal feelings of security. But you have also been fortunate in that your parents possessed wisdom as well as love; and it was wisdom which led them to withhold most forms of indulgence and many luxuries which wealth can buy while they sent you to the synagogue school along with your neighborhood playfellows, and they also encouraged you to learn how to live in this world by permitting you to have original experience. You came over to the Jordan, where we preached and John's disciples baptized, with your young friend Amos. Both of you desired to go with us. When you returned to Jerusalem, your parents consented; Amos's parents refused; they loved their son so much that they denied him the blessed experience which you have had, even such as you this day enjoy. By running away from home, Amos could have joined us, but in so doing he would have wounded love and sacrificed loyalty. Even if such a course had been wise, it would have been a terrible price to pay for experience, independence, and liberty. Wise parents, such as yours, see to it that their children do not have to wound love or stifle loyalty in order to develop independence and enjoy invigorating liberty when they have grown up to your age.
"Love, John, is the supreme reality of the universe when bestowed by all-wise beings, but it is a dangerous and oftentimes semiselfish trait as it is manifested in the experience of mortal parents. When you get married and have children of your own to rear, make sure that your love is admonished by wisdom and guided by intelligence.
"Your young friend Amos believes this gospel of the kingdom just as much as you, but I cannot fully depend upon him; I am not certain about what he will do in the years to come. His early home life was not such as would produce a wholly dependable person. Amos is too much like one of the apostles who failed to enjoy a normal, loving, and wise home training. Your whole afterlife will be more happy and dependable because you spent your first eight years in a normal and well-regulated home. You possess a strong and well-knit character because you grew up in a home where love prevailed and wisdom reigned. Such a childhood training produces a type of loyalty which assures me that you will go through with the course you have begun."
For more than an hour Jesus and John continued this discussion of home life. The Master went on to explain to John how a child is wholly dependent on his parents and the associated home life for all his early concepts of everything intellectual, social, moral, and even spiritual since the family represents to the young child all that he can first know of either human or divine relationships. The child must derive his first impressions of the universe from the mother's care; he is wholly dependent on the earthly father for his first ideas of the heavenly Father. The child's subsequent life is made happy or unhappy, easy or difficult, in accordance with his early mental and emotional life, conditioned by these social and spiritual relationships of the home. A human being's entire afterlife is enormously influenced by what happens during the first few years of existence.
It is our sincere belief that the gospel of Jesus' teaching, founded as it is on the father-child relationship, can hardly enjoy a world-wide acceptance until such a time as the home life of the modern civilized peoples embraces more of love and more of wisdom. Notwithstanding that parents of the twentieth century possess great knowledge and increased truth for improving the home and ennobling the home life, it remains a fact that very few modern homes are such good places in which to nurture boys and girls as Jesus' home in Galilee and John Mark's home in Judea, albeit the acceptance of Jesus' gospel will result in the immediate improvement of home life. The love life of a wise home and the loyal devotion of true religion exert a profound reciprocal influence upon each other. Such a home life enhances religion, and genuine religion always glorifies the home.
It is true that many of the objectionable stunting influences and other cramping features of these olden Jewish homes have been virtually eliminated from many of the better-regulated modern homes. There is, indeed, more spontaneous freedom and far more personal liberty, but this liberty is not restrained by love, motivated by loyalty, nor directed by the intelligent discipline of wisdom. As long as we teach the child to pray, "Our Father who is in heaven," a tremendous responsibility rests upon all earthly fathers so to live and order their homes that the word father becomes worthily enshrined in the minds and hearts of all growing children. ~ The Urantia Book, (177:2.1)
Always looking for the Spirit in the simple things of life with kids and families,
Sara L. Blackstock
Family Life Program
Fifth Epochal Fellowship of Readers of The Urantia Book