Thursday, August 25, 2011

Service...Who Needs It?

What was wrong with Devin?

It was a busy day, and we were all hard at work. The kids were cleaning up a storm. Everyone, that is but Devin. Devin was out of sorts, whining and getting in the way. He seemed to be mad at the whole world.

I stopped what I was doing and gathered Devin in my arms for a hug. As I looked into his sober eyes, it occurred to me that I had given everyone a job to do, except him. He was the only one who was not contributing. Without meaning to I sent Devin a message that he wasn’t needed. I quickly assigned Devin a job, and he cheered right up.

Devin is twenty-seven now. He was four when he taught me the importance of service. Everyone needs to serve. Serving builds our sense of self- worth.

I remember a study that was done at a nursing home. Each of the residents was given a houseplant to keep in their room. Half were told that the staff would care for their plant. The other half was told that the plant was their responsibility. Interestingly, the patients who had to care for their own plants became more alert and experienced measureable health improvements.

Who needs to serve? Anyone who wants a sense of purpose and worth.

What If I Don’t Feel Like Serving?

Serving isn’t always easy and it is seldom convenient. For me, there have been times when I really didn’t want to serve. There have been times when I wanted to be left alone. Sometimes I have felt too busy, too tired, or perhaps just too selfish. Maybe you have felt that.

“Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” This probably never happens to you, but I must admit that sometimes I get a little weary of well-doing.
King Benjamin taught us that even if we serve our Heavenly Father with our whole souls, we will still be unprofitable servants. To be honest, I don’t know how often I serve with my whole soul.

He also taught that when we are in the service of our fellow beings we are only in the service of our God. Perhaps that thought can strengthen us when we are weary of well-doing.

Finding Joy in Service

Usually, I sign up to help out with ward service projects. I enjoy the work, once I am there. It’s nice to be around people who are serving, because they are usually cheerful and gracious. The atmosphere is friendly and uplifting. Still, I don’t necessarily look forward to service projects. A day at the cannery has never been my first choice, but maybe it should be.

Once while serving at the cannery, I worked alongside a friend that I hadn’t seen in a while. As we visited I learned that she was knee deep in challenges that were troubling to me.

She and her husband were struggling with a son who had stolen money and personal items from them. He had sold family heirlooms for drug money. The list of problems created for them by this son was a heavy one.

“How are you getting through this?” I asked.

She smiled confidently. “This,” she said, indicating our surroundings.

This? I thought, as I watched the cans slide down the conveyer belt.

“Yes,” she said. “Serving is what gets me through.”

I was stunned. Serving was getting her through. Serving at the cannery was bringing her peace.

Who needs to serve? Anyone who longs for peace.

Occasionally we have the privilege of cleaning the temple. This is an extraordinary service project. We arrive late at night when the temple is closed, dress in white jumpsuits, and care for a sacred building.

We speak reverently. We walk quietly. It’s an unforgettable experience to clean surfaces which look as if they have never been used. I am not a night person, but I would not miss this sacred opportunity. I feel close to my Father in Heaven and I feel like I am giving something back to him.

Our Covenant to Serve

Alma gave us a clearer understanding of our baptismal covenants as he taught his people at the Waters of Mormon. He spoke of bearing one another’s burdens, of mourning with those that mourn, and comforting those who need it.

If you desire those things, said Alma, “…what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before Him that ye have entered into a covenant with Him, that ye will serve Him, and keep His commandments, that He may pour out His Spirit more abundantly upon you?”

I love what happens next. “And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts.”

What is the desire of my heart?

Recently, I listened to the sacrament prayers with new ears. The phrase that they may have His spirit to be with them sang in my heart. Those words are familiar to me, but this time, I was hungry for meaning.

That they may have his spirit to be with them, I thought, as I tasted those words. That is the desire of my heart. Like the followers of Alma, I want his spirit to be with me. Who wouldn’t want that?

This is the reason I serve, because I want His spirit to be with me. On days when I feel too tired, too busy, or too selfish, that is my motivation.

Who needs to serve? I do.

Linda Garner

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Summer Witness

Ah,summer. Backyard barbecues. Fresh veggies from the garden. Colorful days and starlit nights. Children's laughter. Tangy lemonade. Rhubarb pie.

We spent a summer in Arkansas, where forest was everywhere. Even in the city we were surrounded by gracious trees. We walked daily near a friendly stream where fireflights and locusts entertained us and shy forest creatures sometimes said hello. It was a magic place, and one magic summer day I created this poem.

Summer Witness

What could be so pleasant as a peaceful summer day,
When life slows down a little bit and troubles melt away.
The sun’s a ball of butter and the earth is dressed in green,
While overhead the sky’s the bluest sea you’ve ever seen.
Now and then a puffy cloud floats across the sky,
And all around are buzzing things and things that flutter by.
The stream is just a trickle as it gurgles in its play.
The sleepy river lazily meanders on its way.
The heady smell of blossoms comes softly on the breeze
And all the woodland creatures take refuge in the trees.
Surrounded by this beauty and the joy that’s in the air,
Why do some folks wonder if God is really there?

What could be so pleasant as a starlit summer night,
Watching fireflies dance and flicker underneath the moon so bright,
Stepping in and out of shadows made by giants dressed in green,
Watching for the bashful creatures which by day are seldom seen,
Listening to the chicka chicka of the locust’s rhythmic song,
And the chirping of the crickets, as night birds sing along.
Though the earth is far from quiet, there’s a stillness in the air.
My heart is filled with gratitude. I bow my head in prayer.
I listen for the answer. It comes soft as summer rain.
It warms me and it softens me and fills my heart again.
As summer’s warmth enfolds me, I’m surrounded by His love,
And I know that He cares for me from His heavenly home above.

Linda Garner