People in Australia take a long holiday over Christmas, as their kids are off school from mid-December to the end of January. Now that all the kids are back in school, the adults are settling down and self-reliance activities have also picked up in the various wards and stakes.
Jesus' Light Helps us to See Clearly
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy...". (D&C 11:13)
In our spare time, we like to bird watch. For many months we've hoped to see a Powerful Owl. One evening, we were walking in Wilson's Reserve. The sun was starting to set, touching the tops of the trees with extra light. It caused us to look higher than we usually do. And suddenly we saw this owl about 15 meters above the ground! We felt very blessed to see such a magnificent creature.
The lighting conditions reminded us of the Saviour's light in our lives. When we accept his Atonement and trust in his promise of eternal life, our whole perspective on what life is about changes. We strive to be like him, to continue to grow and learn so that we can help others to draw close to him as well.
The self-reliance classes draw us closer to God. We set goals, counsel with one another, and are encouraged as we report back our progress. We grow in spiritual knowledge and strength, and in confidence to complete our tasks.
The Saviour wants each of his lambs to be invited into his fold. President Uchtdorf says, "While it is important to have our thoughts inclined toward heaven, we miss the essence of our religion if our hands are not also inclined toward our fellowman. For example, Enoch built a Zion society through the spiritual process of creating a people of one heart and one mind and the temporal work of ensuring that there were 'no poor among them'… In a similar way, our spiritual progress is inseparably bound together with the temporal service we give to others. The one compliments the other. The one without the other is a counterfeit of God's plan of happiness." (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Providing in the Lord's way," Ensign or Liahona, November 2011).
As we have faith in the Saviour, pray, study, and keep the commandments, we can receive help and guidance in many ways in our lives.
Painting by Simon Dewey
(Jan was fortunate enough to teach him some voice lessons while living in Alberta)
The Australian Saints are particularly interested in the "Success in School Begins at Home" (SIS) self-reliance class, which helps adults to identify and apply those principles that will let them coach and encourage their children in their school efforts, and prepare them to be successful. The stated goal of the class is to: "...help parents create a home environment that will help children succeed in school".
Some example chapters are:
* Learning starts at home.
* Get all the education you can.
* Improve reading and writing skills.
* Learn how to use study groups.
* Teach children to plan, organize and prioritize, etc.
A full copy of this manual can be viewed or downloaded (in PDF form) from:
We attended the first class of one SIS group tonight. It was an extended family group of about 15 people, many of whom are teachers themselves. There was a good discussion of the ideas in the first chapter, "Learning Starts in the Home". The person facilitating the class has taught for 20 years and commented that from his experience, the SIS manual has combined most of the excellent concepts and teaching tips that he has encountered in his career.
We get to use our own self-reliance skills in unique ways. For example, we met a lady (not a church member) who was attending a "Starting and Growing My Business" class. She was running a home business, selling her products at several local farmers' markets, but also wanted to build a web site where she could promote her business on-line and reach more clients. John helped her to set up a web site, which describes all of her products and also had a shopping cart that allows people to order from her.
While they were working on the web site, Jan was helping her adult daughter learn how to read music. Someone had told her that adults couldn't learn to read music. Once she understood how musical notation worked, Jan gave her some tips on voice exercises. This was an entirely serendipitous opportunity to help!
Spiritual Message - Use Time Wisely
The second lesson in the "My Foundation - Principles, Skills and Habits of Self-Reliance" class is "Use Time Wisely".
The lesson suggests 5 steps that we can follow each day, which will help us to use our time well and focus on those things that really matter:
- List Tasks. Each morning, make a list of tasks to do. Add names of people to serve.
- Pray for guidance. Listen to the Spirit. Commit to do your best.
- Set Priorities. Number your top priorities. Put a "1" by the most important task, put a "2" by the next one, and so on.
- Set Goals and Act. Listen to the Spirit. Set goals. Work hard. Start with the most important task and work down the list.
- Report. Each night, report to Heavenly Father in prayer. Ask questions. Listen. Feel his love. Repent.
If you would like to read through the complete lessons, the My Foundation manual can be downloaded from:
and the related video for lesson 2 can be downloaded from:
Use Time Wisely Video
Australian kids are no different than the kids in Canada - when they are on their summer break, they like to have a lot of fun. We noticed a group of boys using a river swing (made from an old fire hose) and took a couple of photos of them jumping into the Yarra River. It looked a bit muddy to us, but if it's hot outside and the water is cold, who is looking too closely? There are no local crocodiles (they are farther north in Australia), so the boys didn't need to worry too much about reptiles (except for snakes; see below)
Did we mention snakes? We saw the following snake as we were walking along a path in Wilson's Reserve, not too far away from where the boys (above) were swinging / swimming in the Yarra River. This is a 1 m long Tiger Snake - very poisonous, and can be very fast and aggressive if disturbed suddenly.
We watched him for a while, after which he slowly slithered out into the freshly mowed grass. Once there, he was nearly invisible (so much for mowing the grass so that we can better see the snakes). After a few seconds, when he was far enough away, we walked by on the far side of the path from him. As soon as we came abreast, he took off (in the other direction) at high speed!
An insect we see occasionally here, and which we thought was an ant, is shown below. But apparently it is NOT an ant! First, look at the photos...
Someone had told us these "ants" have a nasty "bite" and don't get too close to them. But, it turns out, they are not an ant at all, but a type of wasp (the female is wingless). From the Australian Museum (australianmuseum.net.au) we learn that:
"The wingless, ground-dwelling female 'Blue Ants' are bright metallic blue or green, and can sometimes be mistaken for a large ant. However they are a solitary wasp species, with fully winged males, and can often be found on flowers". We suspect they have a nasty sting rather than bite.
What would our post be without a few of our favourite birds? This first one is called a Splendid Fairy Wren and earns its name on all counts. A beautiful, delicate bird with a lovely colouring - blues and cyans are the best!
Another of our favourite birds, but sometimes hard to find, is the Sacred Kingfisher. We got this shot while trying to sneak up on an entirely different bird: