Monday, June 14, 2010

The Blessings of Service.

I have been terrible about making it to church on time since we switched buildings. I need to be better about that. This morning I was writing in my journal and lost track of time. My clock suddenly said I had 15 min to get to church. My first thought was I could just go to another ward, who would really miss me that much. My next one was very uncharacteristic…what if I just didn’t go today. I almost laughed at that thought and jumped up and zoomed around the house getting ready! I found something to eat, and had a feeling to take some blank paper, and an old Journal that I used to take notes in at church. I had been meaning to put that journal in my church bag for awhile, and didn’t really know where it was. But I found it on the shelf above my bed, and shoved it in with everything else. I am a journal writer…I have about 30 something of them. I have been writing notes, thoughts and impressions and personal revelation down on little scraps of paper/ward bulletins for the past year. I thought it funny that on the Sunday I had 15 min to get ready I had to stop and pick up that journal. But I did, and ran out the door. I got to church just in time to hear the opening prayer in the foyer, then I grabbed a program and a hug from the cute greeters and sat down next to a random family in the ward. I don’t have a set pew, or normal place to sit since the new building…so I joke that I am getting a chance to bless and meet new people each week as I randomly sit with people. This week was the family of one of the Bishopric members. She looked at me a bit funny, I didn’t know why…probably cause I was late, maybe cause I hadn’t ever sat with them before.

I listened as the new Members were read into the ward, releases and sustaining taken care of, and a baby blessing. Just as we are opening up our Hymnals for the Sacrament Hymn I thought to myself how odd it is that there is only one speaker sitting on the stand. Then Suddenly I have this memory flood back of a phone call I got this week (when I was busy at work) asking me if I had ever had the opportunity to speak in church. I silently prayed that it was for next week as I hurriedly opened my program. There in black and white was my name, and I was the first speaker. I looked over at this sister I was sitting by and said whoops I forgot I was speaking today…now understanding the odd look she had given me earlier. With shaking hands I reached down and grabbed my scriptures, a pen, my little hymn book, and that journal. My topic was the Blessings of Service. I wrote about 10 words on the program, opened the journal and quickly scanned the pages. I found some notes I had taken from a Relief Society General Conference Oct 2008. Sister Julie B. Beck had given us council on the 3 fold mission of the church. I underlined some of my notes, and opened my scriptures to where I had been reading this week in Alma. Alma 17 was about the sons of Mosiah and Alma meeting up together and rejoicing that they were still men of God. Then it talks of Ammon and his service to the Laminites. The sacrament song ended and I closed my books and turned my thoughts to the sacrament. I said a big prayer and apologized for forgetting, and being a bit of a slacker. I begged God to help me to speak, and know the things that I should say, even though I didn’t have time to prepare as I should have. I was still shaking, and very nervous as we partook of the sacrament. And then as the conductor stood to announce the program I tried to smile my bravest, most encouraging smile. He looked over at me as he said we would be honored to first hear from…and he paused hoping/praying that I really would be speaking. I nodded my head and with relief in his eyes he said my name, and then the rest of the lineup.

I walked up to the podium and I put down my hymnal, my journal and my scriptures and tried to joke about how it was never good to be late to church, but esp. when you were supposed to be sitting on the stand. No one laughed, or even smiled. Deep breath, another quick prayer and I opened my mouth unsure of what I was going to say. I started with Sister Becks talk. As I read from it I had stories and ideas and thoughts come flooding into my mind. There were some that were nice, but others that pressed upon me, and it was clear which were right to share.

I talked of my parents and their desire to serve a mission. I told of my mom wanting to serve a mission and the Bishop not thinking that this was a place for girls. He didn’t want her to serve. So she worried about what to do. She wanted to serve. A bit later a new Bishop was called and in an interview asked if she had ever thought about going on a mission. They quickly were able to get her ready to go and serve the Lord and His Children. I told how my folks often shared mission stories with us as we grew up. They looked for opportunities to teach and help us understand the Gospel on a daily basis.

I talked of my mission, and getting to serve. It was interesting the things that I mentioned in my talk…how I was wanting to go to Africa, or some untamed place. I was big and strong, and not afraid to eat bugs, and willing to work hard. Yet the Lord called me to Philadelphia Pennsylvania. I was sad, but soon came to realize that this was the most perfect place for me to serve. I got to serve the nations of the World in my native tongue…which was good because I’m not good with languages. I told them of how my mission President tried to impress upon us that our mission was a MTC for the rest of our lives. It was a Missionary Training Center for us to draw strength from as we went on to serve in the Church, our communities, our neighbors and perfect strangers for the rest of our lives.

I talked of not knowing many people when I first moved into the Home ward. I had a sure fire way of meeting people and becoming involved in a ward. You introduce yourself to the Bishop and the Relief Society President and tell them you are new, and that you need a calling. You are able to meet many people and feel at home as you have opportunities to serve others. I mentioned how I had no one really to sit by in sacrament meeting when I first started going to this ward. I felt a bit lost and alone. I prayed that I would have an opportunity to serve some little family with wiggly kids that could use another adult to sit with them. That Sunday the Moranos move into the ward. Every one kinda chuckled. I explained that this was perfect. Here was a new family that didn’t know anyone, with three Autistic boys that needed a little bit of help. Later Sister Morano told me that she had prayed that someone would be able to come and help with the boys who had a hard time being quiet. I said that I knew that the Lord worked in mysterious ways, but he listens and answers our prayers.

I talked of my mother helping a little old lady in the grocery store who couldn’t pay for her groceries and the clerk was being rude…mom said she would pay the difference. The woman was flustered and apologetic and didn’t want to take it, and my mother said something that I have always remembered. She said “You would do the same for me.” The older woman looked at my mom with tears in her eyes and thanked her and said she was right she would have done the same for her. My mom saved the day, served another, and put her heart at ease.

I talked of my opportunity to serve in the Singles ward, and how I was very adamant about leaving once I turned 31…not wanting to be the old lady hanging out with the 18 year olds forever. But I had a blessing that said that just because I had a birthday didn’t mean I got to be released from my calling. I talked of getting back in and serving hard, and learning to let others serve me.

I talked about Ammon and how his story was one of my favorites when I was young because he cut off all the arms and was good with a slingshot. But as I have grown older I have new things that I love about Ammon. I love that he went into a dangerous place to serve, and that he was optimistic and cheerful. When all the servants of the king were afraid and tearful, Ammon went to the rescue. He saw this as an optimistic opportunity to serve these people and bless them with his service. I bore my testimony and I Challenged the members to look for opportunities to serve. That if they would pray for opportunities that they would be able to see the many things that they could do for all those around us. That they would be able to find blessings, realize that our own trials aren’t as bad, and be able to let others return that service when we were in times of need.

I ended my talk and we sang a rest hymn, and then the next speaker got up to speak, and his talk was wonderful, and fit so well with my talk. The Spirit was so strong, and that is the quietest I have ever heard our ward. Even the children were listening and sitting still. No one was sleeping, and many people shook their heads in agreement to the things we talked of. I was so grateful that I had been blessed to know what to say. I have never relied more on the Spirit to direct my talk than I did today. Not that I am going to ever, ever, ever do this again. But I was able to feel so strongly of the things that needed to be said, and when to bear my testimony on things.

All though the rest of Church I had ward members stop, shake my hand and thank me for that talk. Several mentioned that they were struggling with something and that they had prayed to be able to know what they needed to do, and I was able to say just what they needed. I know that it was not all me, and am so grateful for the blessings of the Holy Ghost.  I am glad for the opportunity I have had to speak in front of others, and grateful I can think quick on my feet, and that my Improv skills kicked in. But I know that it was because I prayed and asked for help, and for a miracle. That is the real reason I was able to know what to say for 28 min. When you only have 2 speakers you get a lot of time on your talk. In fact, we went a bit over today in sacrament meeting…and everyone was ever so reverent- and weren’t impatiently looking at the clock. They were looking steadfast to us, and the things that we believed. What a powerful and beautiful opportunity…in contrast to how terrible it could/should have been. I am grateful for the Gospel, and I Know that God Lives and loves us. I know that we have been given much, and we need to serve, and pray and labor to help others come find the happiness and joy of the message of the Plan of Salvation. I am grateful for a Savoir, Jesus Christ who has Atoned for the sins of all mankind. I am grateful to know that not only my sins can be washed away by his sacrifice, but that my broken hearts can be bound up, and healed, and that I can find forgiveness, love and hope. I have come to understand more about the Atonement, and Christ’s deep love for us as I have seen the sorrows and worries and heartaches and burdens lifted off my shoulders, and the shoulders of those around me. I am glad that when I am broken that I can be made whole. In a fireside talk a few months ago the word perfect was discussed.  In Hebrew “Perfect” means whole hearted.  This made so much sense to me! I desire to always have my heart made whole so that I can take care of not only myself, but others. I am very grateful for service given and received.

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