Monday, November 17, 2008

Spiritual Sundays: Help from the Source

I had a feeling when I took this picture that it would end up on a Spiritual Sundays post... ;-)

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and in our church we have no paid clergy. Our bishop, teachers, and all auxiliary leaders are extended a "calling" in which they are asked to serve in a particular position. There is no set length of time for service, you simply serve until you are asked to serve elsewhere. You can accept or decline a calling, but all are encouraged to pray about their callings, as we believe they come not from church leaders, but from God.

Over my time as a member of the Church, I have had the opportunity to serve in many callings, and it has been a blessing to me and to my family. Most recently, I have served with the youth in the Young Women organization, and currently I am serving as a leader for the children in the Primary. My service in the various positions has taught me many lessons, but the one that stands out most to me is this: when you are doing what God wants you to do, He will help you more than you could possibly imagine.

I have had so many instances where I have found that to be true, and it is a lesson that everyone can learn, not just those giving service in a church. Every mother has a sacred calling from God to raise His children, and every father has a calling to lead and provide for his family. These are all things for which the Lord will give us guidance if only we ask. It brings to mind the words of a favorite song, called "The Word" by Christian singer Sara Groves-

I've heard every devotional, been every place emotional 
Tried to hear new word from God and I think it's very odd
That while I attempt to help myself my Bible sits upon the shelf
With every promise I could ever need

And the Word was, and the Word is, and the Word will be
And the Word was, and the Word is, and the Word will be

People are getting fit for truth like they're buying a new tailored suit
Does it fit across the shoulders? Will it fade when it gets older?
They throw ideas that aren't in style in the Salvation Army pile
And search for something more to meet our needs

But the Word was, and the Word is, and the Word will be...

I love those words because I see myself in them- when I struggle with problems with my children, when I have difficult family relationships, I have a tendency to want to consult Dr. Phil's latest book or watch Super Nanny. I'm not saying that those aren't useful sources of information, but wouldn't our Father maybe have the best angle on our problems? After all, He knows each of us personally, and not only does He know us but He knows everyone in our lives, and not just our outsides, but our insides too. 

I'll go back to my church calling as an example, simply because it is there that I have seen the most obvious difference between when I ask for His help and when I try to go it alone. I will never forget the Sunday that I was supposed to teach the children and I prepared my lesson all by myself- without divine help- and it just didn't feel right. I couldn't put my finger on the problem- it just didn't quite feel right. So I gave my lesson and it was fine, but it wasn't anything special.

Fast forward to the next week when one of the other leaders, who had been out of town the week before, was teaching the children. Well, she had prepared the exact same lesson as me (we go by a monthly theme and we are free to prepare our own lessons within the theme). It was then that I realized why the lesson hadn't felt right- it was because she was the one who was supposed to give it. Heavenly Father knew that and He was trying to tell me and I just didn't listen. I can't help but wonder what lesson He would have had me teach that day, and what the children and I may have missed because of my stubbornness.

Time and time again I have struggled to prepare a lesson and just felt like I was getting nowhere- like I was trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle that I didn't have all the pieces for, and the pieces were mixed in with pieces from another puzzle, and I didn't have a picture of what the completed puzzle should look like anyway so I didn't even know what exactly I was trying to accomplish! But I have learned that when I pause and say a heartfelt prayer asking Heavenly Father to guide my efforts that I may serve Him and His children in a way that is pleasing unto Him, and speak the words that He would have me speak, and give the lesson that He would have me give, it is like I am given a brand-new puzzle, where every piece fits together perfectly and creates a beautiful picture.

So here, in a brief summary, are a few tips for asking for help from the Source:

- Pay attention to your heart. Your head may tell you that you have what you need to solve a problem or to give a lesson or whatever the case may be, but that nagging feeling may be telling you otherwise. Listen.

- Don't be afraid to start over. Once you get that feeling, you may think that you're too far along the path you've already set for yourself using your own devices. Don't be afraid to stop on the path and get on your knees. If the Lord shows you a different path, then trust in Him and change your route.

- Be still and listen. Sometimes when we pray we spend a lot of time talking to God but not much time listening for His answers. Whenever I am praying for guidance, I make sure to do it in a quiet place, and then I have a few moments of quiet meditation after my "Amen." In my mind, I imagine letting my thoughts just float, and allowing the Lord to capture and bring me the ones that He wants me to act on.

- Let God speak to you in His own way. Sometimes I hear complaints from people that they don't think they ever get answers to prayers. My response? Tell God you can't hear Him! I have had times when I've felt like no one up There was listening, so I simply prayed, "Heavenly Father, I really need an answer here and I feel like I'm not getting one. Please show me in a way I can recognize and understand." He has never failed me on this, and as your relationship with Him grows, His answers will become more familiar to you, and the lines of communication will become clear.

- Say Thank You. It's easy to get excited when we receive an answer to our prayers, and to just run off to solve our problem. Just don't forget the One who gave you the answer, and thank Him for His kind mercy.

In closing, I will share some more of my favorite words from "The Word" by Sara Groves, which she took from the book of Romans:

And neither death nor life nor present nor future nor depth nor height can keep us from the love of Christ
And the Word I need is the Word that was, that brought the Father to dwell with us
In the Beginning
And the Word was, and the Word is, and the Word will be
And the Word was, and the Word is, and the Word will be.

Can you tell the difference between when you ask for help and when you don't? I would love to read your comments about this!

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