Thursday, October 1, 2015

"Convenient Service"

The other night I was watching a BYU Devotional given by Sister Sherry Patten Palmer.
It was entitled "Convenient Service."  The title had me intrigued.

I had been raised by a mother who was always serving.  I remember asking a trusted friend after she passed what scripture would describe her he instantly responded, "Mosiah 2:17"

And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom ;
 that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings
 ye are only in the service of your God. 

That verse beautifully described my mother.  So, as I was listening to Sister Palmer speak I learned that she too was a nurse and I began to feel a little pride sweep into my being as I reflected on all the grand-mas and grand-pas I had the great blessing of serving and then as I thought about those around me that I tried to serve as my mother's example had taught me.

She proceeded to share a couple of experiences where she had not exhibited "Christ like service."
One was while she was in a poor country working.  She commented on an elderly mother approaching her and she knew this sweet women was going to ask her for money.  She talked about how she could not wait for the end of her shift, so that she could take her last $20.00 and get a great piece of Roast Beef."  She was more concerned about her "Roast Beef then she was about his poor sisters plight."  I had a major ouch moment because just earlier in the day I had my own "Roast Beef moment and I totally fell short of what the Savior would have done.

She then mentioned another experience where she was in a local retailer at Christmas time and the couple in front of her were digging through their pocket trying to come up with enough change to make their purchase.  She commented that "I looked away."

She then shared this quote by Elder Vaughn J Featherstone:

 "...I could list many, many more opportunities that may well come to all us in a lifetime 
but most often at an inappropriate time.
You can make a decision that you are to busy, 
but that is generally only an excuse,,,"

I had a major "ouch" moment.  A painful ouch moment that I continue to have when I read President Bensons talk concerning Pride.

I will now share her words with you and I included Elder Featherstone's talk "Why me? Why Now?  on another blog post.

I hope that her words and his words will inspire us to exhibit a purer Christ like Service even when it is most inconvenient.

Sherri Patten Palmer

"The title of my talk is "Convenient Service."  You may think this is an oxymoron,
but during the course of this talk I hope to explain why it should not be.

Jesus Christ preached:

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you,
do ye even to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
(Matthew 7:12, 3 Nephi 14:12 and Luke 6:31)

Jesus also said:

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself,
and take up the cross and follow me.
For whomsoever will save his life shall lose it;
and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
(Matthew 16:24-25, Matthew10:39)

President Thomas S Monson said:

I believe the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others,
there is little purpose to our own lives.
Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up figuratively lose their lives,
while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish--
and in effect save their lives.
("What Have I Done for Someone Today?" Ensign, Nov. 2008, 85)

Furthermore, we read in Revelation 2:19:

I know thy works, and charity and service, and faith,
and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.

Notice how "works" is in this scripture twice--actually, I believe it is in there four times, as charity
and service could also be our "works."  Heavenly Father is saying here that He knows our works.
So what works or service are we personally known for?  Do we hesitate when confronted with the opportunity to serve?  Is it convenient to serve?  Or is service something we sign up for once in a while when the sign-up sheet is passed around?

With my profession as a nurse and my job here at BYU, I have the opportunity to work both locally and abroad with the sick in hospitals and various communities.  Much of what I see is humbling and life changing.  I would like to relate an experience of service I had a few years ago.

I was in a hospital in a developing country doing research for my doctoral project.  In many hospitals our healthcare facilities in third-world countries, medicine is not available to the patients from the hospital itself.  If the doctor feels the patient should receive a particular medicine, even if it is lifesaving, a prescription is written out to the family, and they need to take it to a pharmacy, pay for it, and then bring it back to the hospital for administration to the patient.]
Understandably, this is difficult for many patients, and they do not get medicines, as their family simply cannot afford them.

Partly due to these situations, it is not uncommon for there to be many beggars just outside the hospital grounds with their hands outstretched for money.  But once you get in the gates of the complex, you usually aren't asked for money.  As I was an obvious foreigner, I was asked for money many times a day.  In fact I had become quite calloused to this situation.

I had been in the hospital working a few days in the intensive care unit.  As I was doing research, I was observing and taking notes on the care that the patients were receiving.
Little did I realize that people were also watching and noticing me.
I was walking across the hospital campus and a little lady came up to me.  She introduced herself and said she had been watching me in the intensive care unit; her son was a patient there.  She state that her son was unconscious from a car crash.  He was on a ventilator and doing well.  I could not remember which patient was her son.  As she continued explaining the situation, she started pulling out a piece of paper.

I saw it and thought, "Oh, this is it.  This is a prescription, and she is going to ask me for money."  I then thought about the twenty-dollar bill I had in my pocket.  I don't carry a lot of money with me when I travel, and I had been waiting all week to eat in the hotel restaurant and order the roast beef, which is delicious and cheap compared to American standards.
I told her I couldn't give her any money and walked away.  She was just another beggar.

I walked away quickly, and after a few moments I turned around and looked at her.
She was looking around with a look of "What do I do now?"  My heart was pierced.
I couldn't believe I was so eager to eat roast beef over giving this woman money that could possibly enable her son to live.  I couldn't allow it!  I quickly ran back down the steps and said, "Espera, Senora--wait!  I have money to give you."

She accepted my twenty-dollar bill with tears in her eyes.  And tears were in mine also.
The desire to help another was strong.  I am glad I had this experience, because I have been able to reflect on it a lot.  I call it my personal parable of the roast beef.

What of those people who are less fortunate that we are?  How do we serve them?  In my travels I have wondered why there is so much variation of wealth, health, or material blessings.  What do others desire when they appear to have so little?
Elder Neal A. Maxwell said something that has helped me understand:

God thus take into merciful account not only our desires
and our performance, but also the degrees of difficulty
which our varied circumstances impose upon us.
("According to the Desire of {our} Hearts," Ensign. Nov. 1996, 21)

Of course everybody has a similar desires, but it if the performance and the degree of difficulty it takes for us to perform that God considers.  God takes into account the degrees of difficulty.
So what does that say when it truly is quite easy to give a little service because of our blessings and fortune?  Well, "unto whom much is given much is required." (D&C 82:3, Luke 12:48)

We have a low degree of difficulty, and we should really be getting off the couch, so to speak, and providing meaningful service.  We are blessed for a reason. 
 If it is only a little difficult to render service, should we not do it more often? 
 It is only a little inconvenient, why can't we do it more frequently?

What about those who have a higher degree of difficulty in providing service?  Think of those who are struggling in the world.  I am sure many missionaries can relate to the experiences I had while I was on my mission years ago.  Families who had little to eat would prepare food for the missionaries.
Surely these families have a different degree of difficulty when it comes to giving and rendering service.
I clearly remember an episode of service on my mission over thirty years ago.  This was one of those occasions in which we thought we were the ones giving service, but, as it turns out, we were the ones being served. 
 My companion and I had traveled out to a little settlement in Itakyry, Paraguay.
This area basically consisted of a large member family and a few neighbors who were investigating.
We were going to visit the family and attend church and a baptism the next day.

Since it tool do long to travel out there, down the dirt roads and over streams, we had to stay the night with the family.  Even though it was in a jungle, it was cold.  The parents gave me and my companion their one bed and their one blanket.  The large family then slept on the dirt floor in the next room, with the little ones tucked between them.
I froze that night.  I kept on all my clothes, my sweater, and even my rubber boots.  I felt so guilty and was so cold I could not sleep.
The next day, as we sat on logs under the open sky for fast and testimony meeting, the family could not express enough thanks to me and my companion for coming all the way out to visit them on this special occasion.  My heart was pierced.  It was then that I realized that this family had been providing me service--in the way that they could--by providing their own bed and blanket on chilly night in Paraguay.

Even though there are material inequalities in the world, we  all can have the righteous desire to serve.  And it is the pursuit of these righteous desires that measures our reward in heaven.

We do not have to travel abroad to have fascinating and memorable experiences of service.

We can and should start right here in our homes and neighborhoods.  Jesus did not travel very far;
often He served those very near to Him.  We have opportunities to serve simply being sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters.  We serve through our church callings and by being members of our wards.

I often think that Heavenly Father will ask me, "What did you do to serve the women you visit taught?  How did you change their lives or help them in times of need?  How did you serve your brothers?  Did you even notice when they needed help?"

These can be sobering thoughts.

So, how can we make service convenient?  We start by practicing with "automatic responses."
Let me relate another little experience.  This one was only a few months after my experience in the hospital with the roast beef money.  It was Christmastime, and I was in the checkout line at Wal-mart, thinking of all I had to do.  I was watching the young couple in front of me buy a little girl's bike.
The cost was around sixty-five dollars.  I watched the man hand over dollar bills and then frustratingly search in his pockets for change.  Then the couple searched in the woman's purse for money.  I averted my eyes to avoid the additional embarrassment for them.
Even at that moment I felt uncomfortable and ackward.  I guess they finally came up with the right amount of money.  I was too busy trying not to notice.

After I had made my purchases, I followed them out of the store--realizing I had again missed the opportunity to help.  It was most likely only a few dollars they had needed. 
Where had my desire gone?  Why couldn't I have just conveniently handed them a few dollars?
Again, I couldn't believe it!  Why hadn't I performed an automatic response by offering a dollar or two?

Giving service and having it become "convenient" is a work in progress.  While I was in the temple the other night I thought about how tightly related service is with sacrifice and consecration.
Service is a stepping-stone toward these two great doctrines of our religion.  It is up to us how big these stepping-stone of service is.  Are the stepping-stones of service huge, insurmountable boulders that we believe are set in our way?  Or are they merely soft, round pebbles upon which we tread?  If we treat service like helpful small pebbles that line our pathway back to the Savior, we may find that these pebbles become convenient guides that will help us along the way.

If we can master the task of providing service to those around us, how much easier, then, is it to sacrifice for others and consecrate what we do for the Lord.  Elder Bruce R. McConkie gave a talk in April 1975 about obedience, consecration, and sacrifice.  He said:

We have covenanted in the waters of baptism to love and serve him,
to keep his commandments, and to put first in our lives the things of his kingdom.
In return he has promised us eternal life in his Father's kingdom.
We are thus in a position to receive and obey some of the higher laws
which prepare us for that eternal life which we so sincerely seek.

Elder McConkie then went on to say:

It is written:  "He who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom 
cannot abide a celestial glory." (D&C 88:22)
The law of sacrifice is a celestial law; so also is the law of consecration.
Thus to gain that celestial reward which we so devoutly desire,
we must be able to live those two laws.
Sacrafice and consecration are inseparably intertwined.
{"Obedience, Consecration, and Sacrifice,"  Ensign, May 1975, 50}

I would like to add:  How can we ever get to the laws of sacrifice and consecration with-out first applying service in our lives?  When we are physically serving our brother, we are sacrificing--whether it be our time, our physical abilities, or our material blessings.  When we perform service with the right kind of spirit, we practice consecration.  We are consecrating our time, our physical abilities, and our material blessings to others--and in essence to the Lord. 
Service in our lives is similar to stepping-stones; the way we perceive or encounter service determines the size of those stones.  Are they helps or hindrances to our eternal progression?
Just like we consciously work on the other attributes in our lives, we need to put in place a conscious decision to make service convenient.  We need to plan on this behavior.

President Thomas S. Monson taught Brigham Young University students that their student days should include "the matter of spiritual preparation," including service to others:

An attitude of love characterized the mission of the Master.
He gave sight to the blind, legs to the lame, and life to the dead.
Perhaps when we {Face} our Maker, we will not be asked,
"How many people did you help?"
In reality you can never love the Lord until you serve Him by serving His people.
{"Great Expectations," BYU Devotional address, 11 Jan. 2009}

I would like to look at some examples of Jesus Christ when He served.  
What were His interactions like?  Was service convenient for Him?
Let's take a look at some interactions:

And behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying,
Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying,
I will; be thou clean.
{Matthew 8:2-3}

And when Jesus was come into Peter's house
he saw his wife's mother laid, and sick of a fever.
And he touched her hand.
{Matthew 8:14}

Behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying,
My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, 
and she shall live.  And Jesus arose, and followed him.
{Matther 9:18}

And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years,
came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment...
But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said,
Daughter, be of good comfort.
{Matthey 9:20}

And Jesus went about all the cities and villages,
teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom,
and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them.
{Matthew 9:35-36}

What was Jesus doing?  He said "I will," He "touched," He "arose," He "turned him about." 
and He "was moved with compassion." These are characteristics of kindness and love.
He was not inconvenienced.  It was His way of life.  When we act and serve as Jesus did,
we become more like Him.

How can we make service our way of Life?  How can we have it be an immediate reaction instead of a thought-out-action?  How can we make it convenient?  We can prepare for service.
We may start out with creating a habit of always being willing to or being ready to do something extra.

Maybe you enjoy mowing the lawn, so if a neighbor needs help, that can be your automatic reaction--
you can mow their lawn.  Or maybe you have a special chicken enchilada recipe that turns out great
every time--that can be your automatic reaction if there is a need for a meal in your ward.
Maybe you have a keen listening ear and enjoy conversation--that can be your automatic reaction when a family member is in need.  The key is to create automatic reactions within ourselves.
They do not have to be big service activities.  President Spencer W. Kimball said:

It is vital we serve each other in the often our acts of service consist of simple
encouragement or of with mundane tasks,
 but what glorious consequences can flow...from small but deliberate deeds!
{"Small Acts of Service," Ensign, Dec.1974, 5}

Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone gave a talk about serving when it is inconvenient.  He said:

Now my young friends...think of all the opportunities you will have to serve
at inconvenient times.  I promise you that most of the service you render to the Lord
will come at times not convenient to you.  Think about some of them:

Your call to serve an 18-month mission, right in the middle of your schooling,
courting, and vocational training.

A call to serve in the ward when you have grades to maintain and a social life to fulfill.

An invitation to speak at church.

Home teaching visits.

Early-morning seminary, which in many stakes begins at 6:00 am.,
not a convenient hour.

A hospital visit to a sick friend.
(After my surgery one of the cna's I work with after a long shift came and sat with me for over 3 hours.  The poor girl looked beat but she came.  Oh how I love that sweet cna  LB)

Assisting a friend in his or her school election campaign.

Someone with a flat tire or other auto problems on the highway.
It generally is not convenient time to stop.

Shoveling snow or mowing a lawn of someone in need--a widow or neighbor--
when your day is already too full.

Elder Featherstone went on to say:

I could list many, many more opportunities that may well come to all of us in a lifetime
but most often at an inappropriate time.  You can make a decision that you are too busy,
but that is generally only an excuse...
My beloved young friend, determine to serve one another.
Listen to the spirit when your flesh is weak.
For truly the Master said,
"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren,
ye have done it unto me."
{Matthew 25:40}
The blessings are tenfold when we do those good, kindly acts of 
Christlike service when it is inopportune or not convenient.
{"The Message: "Why Now? Why Me?" New Era, Jan 1984, 7}

I appreciate Sister Burton's advice to "first observe, then serve"
 (see "First Observe, Then Serve, " Ensign,Nov. 2012, 78-80)

How closely do we observe?  What do we notice as we go about our daily, hurried lives?
What can you do as a BYU student?  Take a look around you.  Do as Sister Burton said:
"First observe, then serve."  I have seen students sit by themselves an entire semester.
I have seen students not talk to anybody during class breaks.  We need to serve those around us first, whether they are family, roommates, or neighbors.
I have experienced memorable acts of service.  I have been the giver and the receiver.

Yet even with many years of experience, I still struggle with now "convenient" the service is.
I have felt my hear pierced with love, compassion, thankfulness, and the Spirit.
Shouldn't these feelings be enough motivation?  My memories of the two opposite experiences 
lately are vivid.  My parable of the roast beef keeps me remembering how it feels to serve.
My experience at Wal-mart at Christmastime is a sobering, memorable occurrence of not serving, or not observing; in fact, I averted my eyes to the need for a dollar or two.

Yes, service becoming convenient is a work in progress.  Giving service throughout our lives is like being led down a beautiful path of stepping-stones.  However, to make service convenient, we must practice and practice.  I think about and study the life of our Savior. How he acted and how He served is an example to me.  Again, what was Jesus doing?
He said, " I will," He "touched," He "arose," He "turned him about," and 
He "was moved with compassion."  These are the characteristics of kindness and love.

He as not inconvenienced.  It was His way of life.  May we pray to make this our way of life also,
I say in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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