Monday, October 26, 2015

Charity is spelled L-O-V-E

My talk/sermon given to the Parkway Ward on 10-25-2014 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints:

In August, I was sitting in the Primary room when I received a text from my husband who was sitting 5 feet away from me. The text said that Brother Bishop had asked if Todd and I would speak in church during sacrament meeting. We have only spoken once in the 4 years we have lived here, so I knew we couldn't hide too much longer. I asked Todd if we had been given a topic- and he said yes- CHASTITY. Say what? CHASTITY? He confirmed and then he and I spent several weeks pondering and praying about how we were going to cover such a serious topic with such a vast audience of ages and experience. The more we studied, the more confident we became and we began giving ourselves these little pep talks, “if the Bishopric felt inspired to ask us to speak of this topic, then we can do it!” Travis was still working on figuring out which Sunday we would speak- and so I e-mailed the bishopric to ask if they had a date for us yet and to confirm my topic. Phil Harrison replied confirming that our day to speak was today- AND yes, I was still speaking on CHARITY. CHARITY, not CHASTITY, they almost sound the same but they are drastically different! And no, I'm not volunteering us to speak chastity any time soon.

Charity, however, is probably my most favorite topic (especially compared to chastity) and something I am super passionate about. By definition, charity is the pure love of Christ. The Book of Mormon and New Testament both state that charity suffereth long, is kind, is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, does not rejoice in inquiry- but does in truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, endureth all things, without charity we are nothing and charity never faileth. Well, that sounds easy enough!

The week after conference I decided to ponderize- or ponder/memorize- 1 Cor 13:4-8 which spells out a lot of what I just described about charity. Since I had that scripture on my heart- it popped into my head several times unexpectedly whenever I was not quite on track in my thinking. So when the man in the grocery store insisted on whistling the entire time he and I shopped, I was reminded that charity is not easily provoked, is kind, suffereth long and endureth all things. Needless to say, it was a week full of reminders that I need to work on being more charitable.

Fresh out of college and newly married I had the opportunity to work for a non-profit organization while Todd finished his degree from Texas A&M. Sheltering Arms was a facility built for children taken from their homes because of abuse. A few were run-aways. I worked long hours and the environment and circumstances of the children made it a challenging job. I am sometimes haunted by that job now that I am a parent. I would certainly do things differently. One of the most valuable lessons I learned from the shelter was about REAL CHARITY. During the holidays, organizations would come out of the wood works offering toys for the children living in the shelter. We would receive so many donations that we wouldn't have room for them. There were easily 20 gifts per child. It became unreasonable, inconvenient, and overwhelming. I remember thinking that I wished these good intended organizations would ask us what we needed instead of what felt good to buy. The best illustration of charity comes from an experience I had at the shelter that I refer to as the parable of the doctor and the doughnut lady.

As a 20-something year old supervisor, when donations were brought to our gate- I was to meet the donors- provide a tax form- and collected whatever was being donated. One afternoon I was called outside to receive some donations. I met a man there who had a few trashbags of used clothing. As I began filling out the form, he abruptly asked for it, filled it out himself- then gave it back to me to sign. Surprised by his frustration, I took the form, gave him his copy, then collected the bags and brought them inside. When I reviewed the form I noticed that he had written his donation value at $500. I got into trouble for allowing him to fill out the form, especially since his donation did not match the value he wrote. I later found out that he was a local doctor and that he had done this before.

In stark contrast, I had the opportunity once to talk to another one of our donors. The children at the shelter lovingly referred to her as the doughnut lady. Every week this woman would ring the gate with donations of bags of donuts. Not just a dozen glazed- she would bring in the works: kolaches, frosted, sprinkles, twists, and cake donuts- a cornucopia of flavors and colors to the utter delight of the children. I only spoke to her once, even though she came every week, because she was very discrete. She had called to say that she was going out of town and wanted to express her sorrow and concern for missing one week. Charity is not puffed up and seeketh not her own.

I believe in life we are given countless opportunities to serve. Those opportunities are only during the holiday or when its convenient. Its not meant to be for our benefit, although charity often blesses the giver more than the receiver. The doughnut lady teaches us that charity- in its simplest form- is consistent. It should be our way of living- something that we feel the absence of when it is gone. Camilla Kimball said it best, and this is our family motto: Never suppress a generous thought. And to steal a phrase from Nike-just do it!

The second aspect of charity that I want to discuss is charity in the home. I'm going to warn you that some of what I'm going to say might sting a little, or at least it did for me! The message for this month's visiting teachers is about love & charity. My visiting teacher shared this quote by President Monson. He offers a fresh perspective that has made me re-think my views on charity. See if you ever see any of this in your homes or even your workplace.

“Charity is having patience with someone who has let us down. It is resisting the impulse to become easily offended. It is accepting weaknesses and shortcomings. It is accepting people as they truly are. It is looking beyond physical appearances to attributes that will not dim through time. It is resisting the impulse to categorize others.”

I don't know what you got from that quote but here is what I heard:
*Lindsey, your children never have been nor ever will be perfect, cut them some slack.
*Lindsey, not everyone loves your cooking 100% of the time and even when they do, don't expect a handwritten note of thanks.
*Lindsey, your job as a mother and wife is to love them- as they are. Perfectly imperfect bundles of hugs, kisses, and impossible to clean-up messes.
*Lindsey, its forgiving the fact that they forgot to brush their teeth, or make their bed, or pack their lunches. Again.
*Lindsey, charity is all about LOVE.

In the last general conference Elder Holland spoke to Moms about charity, “Thank you. Thank you for giving birth, for shaping souls, for forming character, and for demonstrating the pure love of Christ. Be peaceful. Believe in God and yourself. You are doing better than you think you are. In fact, you are Saviors on Mount Zion and like the Master you follow, your love never faileth.”

There's a quote in my kitchen that says, “Enjoy the little things in life because one day you will look back and realize they were the big things.” Winston Churchill once said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

During our first years of marriage- Todd and I got into a fight. We don't fight often but I don't remember any of the details other than we wanted the other person to leave us alone- and we weren't speaking much. That evening when I went to get ready for bed, Todd had put toothpaste on my toothbrush for me. It wasn't anything big- but it was just enough to melt the frost between us. Since then whomever brushes their teeth first puts toothpaste on the other person's toothbrush. It's a daily reminder to us of what's really important and we've been doing that for 14 years.

And I think that's the real secret behind charity. It is not always the service projects, the Secret Santas, the $500 donation of used clothing. I believe that charity is that selfless service that brings us to the door of our friends, or neighbors, or strangers with bags of donuts or helping hands, or a simple hug. I believe that if charity is the pure love of Christ,- then we should seek for it in our homes where people are often the most unlovable. It's toothpaste on your toothbrush saying- what really matters to me is you.

1 John 3:11- “For this is the message that ye have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”

I wanted to share one more thought about charity that hadn't occurred to me until I thought I was finished writing my talk. When our family first moved to Houston, we arrived a bit tattered from having dealt with a difficult move. We had been through a lot and we were still recovering. Struggling to find Houston our new home, I knew that serving others would help me adjust- but with such a full plate of unpacking & mothering small children- I could not find the time to do any service outside of my home. I expressed my apologizes to my new friend who was serving as the current Relief Society president and she counseled me by saying, “Lindsey, its not your turn. We all have seasons of life- sometimes we are serving, sometimes we are waiting, and sometimes we are the ones being served. We all take turns in those phases. Lindsey, its not your turn.” Wherever you are in the rotation, please be patient , the season will change soon.

It has been my privilege to be in a season of serving. Many thanks to all of those whom I have learned from as we have served together in this congregation. As I teach primary now, we are learning about the life of Jesus. The greatest blessing of this calling is that I've gotten to know Jesus as a person better. After all we have to know him in order to be more like him. He is our ultimate example. I hope your take-away message from this talk is that charity really doesn't have to be big- its the little every day things that add up to something, making us better servants, & better people. Let's all try to do a little better, my friends. I love you, thanks for loving me back- because that's what its all about.

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