Wednesday, February 20, 2013

TFOT - Be Anxiously Engaged and First Observe, Then Serve

Be Anxiously Engaged by M. Russell Ballard and First Observe, Then Serve by Linda K. Burton

Handout ideas:  Print this as a picture!

What a pairing! J
When I was a girl growing up in Germany, we relied on our other friends and relationships that we knew through church because there were fewer members, and fewer still, members who were Americans where I lived.  One of the best lessons I ever learned was to be anxiously engaged.  As a teen we poked fun at the saying since the idea of getting engaged and married was so romantic, but the message of not being just a part of a good cause, but ANXIOUSLY ENGAGED in doing things that could uplift, help, relieve, or support another was something we heard a lot.  So what’s the difference?
The dictionary defines anxiously as:
earnestly desirous; eager
and engaged as:
involved, pledged, greatly interested, partly embedded, committed, and promised
When we are a part of a cause, we may extend effort, we may give support but our commitment and loyalty, and understanding of it are not the same as when we are anxiously engaged.  Think of it in terms of kids.  When they were little and I asked them to help with cleaning the house they were less than enthusiastic, however after we taught lessons and shared experiences that taught the lesson of “many hands make light work”, they became engaged and eager to do it together because they knew it was a better way!
Elder Ballard shared his experience with honeybees on his father’s peach orchard.  He said:

Father loved his gentle honeybees and marveled at the way thousands of them working together transformed the nectar gathered from his peach blossoms into sweet, golden honey—one of nature’s most beneficial foods. In fact, nutritionists tell us it is one of the foods that includes all the substances—enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and water—necessary to sustain life.
Honeybees are driven to pollinate, gather nectar, and condense the nectar into honey. It is their magnificent obsession imprinted into their genetic makeup by our Creator. It is estimated that to produce just one pound (0.45 kg) of honey, the average hive of 20,000 to 60,000 bees must collectively visit millions of flowers and travel the equivalent of two times around the world. Over its short lifetime of just a few weeks to four months, a single honeybee’s contribution of honey to its hive is a mere one-twelfth of one teaspoon.
Though seemingly insignificant when compared to the total, each bee’s one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey is vital to the life of the hive. The bees depend on each other. Work that would be overwhelming for a few bees to do becomes lighter because all of the bees faithfully do their part.
Within the church the beehive symbol is used quite a bit.  This symbolism attests to one fact: great things are brought about and burdens are lightened through the efforts of many hands “anxiously engaged in a good cause” (D&C 58:27). Imagine what the millions of Latter-day Saints could accomplish in the world if we functioned like a beehive in our focused, concentrated commitment to the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  Sometimes in our daily rush of life, we start to run on automatic. Or we get distracted and become absentminded. Or get so engrossed in our own life that we fail to think of others and fail to look for opportunities to serve.  Linda Burton, the Relief Society General President tells us to:

“first observe, then serve”
In the following case studies (I’ll split the women into 4 groups); we can see how service comes as a direct response to an observation.
Case Study #1
A six-year-old Primary child said: “When I was chosen to be a class helper, I could choose a friend to work with me. I picked [a boy in my class who bullied me] because he never gets chosen by others. I wanted to make him feel good.”
1.        What did he observe? 
2.        What did he do?
Jesus taught, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you.”

Case Study #2
In one ward, …Every week the young men arrive early and stand outside the meetinghouse in rain, snow, or blistering heat, awaiting the arrival of the many elderly members in their ward. They lift wheelchairs and walkers out of cars, provide sturdy arms to grasp, and patiently escort the silver-haired seniors into the building. They are truly doing their duty to God.
1.       What did they observe?
2.      What did they do?
As they observe and then serve, they are living examples of the Savior’s teaching: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Case Study #3

An inspired young woman named Alexandria noticed that her cousin Madison was unable to complete her own Personal Progress requirements because she suffered from severe autism. Alexandria rallied the young women in her ward, counseled with her leaders, and determined to do something for Maddy that she could not do herself. Each of the young women completed a portion of the Personal Progress activities and projects vicariously to enable Maddy to receive her own medallion.
1.      What did they observe?
2.      What did they do?
These young women will progress well into roles of motherhood and Relief Society sisterhood because they are learning to first observe, and then serve in charitable ways.

Case Study #4

An observant husband served in two important ways. He relates:
“I was assisting my wife one Sunday with her Primary class full of energetic seven-year-olds. As Primary sharing time started, I noticed one of the class members huddled on her chair and obviously not feeling well. The Spirit whispered to me that she needed comfort, so I sat by her and quietly asked what was wrong. She didn’t answer… so I began to sing softly to her.
“The Primary was learning a new song, and when we sang, ‘If I listen with my heart I hear the Savior’s voice,’ I began to feel the most incredible light and warmth fill my soul. … I received a personal testimony of our Savior’s love for her … and for me. … I learned that we are [the Savior’s] hands when we serve the one.”
1.      What did he observe?
2.      What did he do?
Not only did this Christ-like brother notice the need to help his wife with a class full of energetic seven-year-olds; he also gave individual service to a child in need. He followed the Savior, who taught, “The works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do.”


            In each of these case studies, there was a need and a response.  Responding is an action word which is what service is!  Serving another always seems easier when it is away from our home. We hear of amazing service projects, and humanitarian efforts, But as Sis. Burton says: What better place to first observe and then serve than in the home?

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we stopped and realize the long-reaching effect that teaching our families about serving like the bees, and being anxiously engaged in our own homes will have?  We’ll actually be pollinating the world for future generations!

Sometimes we are tempted to serve in a way that we want to serve and not necessarily in the way that is needed at the moment. When Elder Robert D. Hales taught the principle of provident living, he shared the example of buying a gift for his wife. She asked, “Are you buying this for me or for you?”  If we adapt that question to ourselves as we serve and ask, “Am I doing this for the Savior, or am I doing this for me?” our service will more likely resemble the ministry of the Savior. The Savior asked, and so should we, “What will ye that I shall do unto you?”
Looking around our homes we can serve in many ways!  Whether it be taking note of someone who needs a smile and a hug because it looks like they are having a bad day.  Or offering to help someone to make something get done a little faster.  Or doing something without being asked a million times.  Or just going out of your way to send a quick email, text, or quick visit to a special someone who may need to be uplifted.  We can't do any of those things unless we are observing - and seeing where the needs lie.
To observe, we need to be in the present and take the time to look past ourselves. Then we need to put in a little effort - and serve. It's amazing how good we can make someone else feel - and actually, how good we usually feel after giving this service too.
This week my cousin Candace posted the sweetest status about her daughter Maddie who is seven.  She said “I seriously have the best oldest child EVER!!!! I was in the middle of packing Emmy's lunch for her play date today and had to run to the bathroom. Maddie, knowing that we were in a hurry, made Emmy's sandwich, got her a juice box and was looking for something else to put in the bag when I came back down. She did this ALL without being asked. I love her! She sees a need and fills it. She speaks my love language. I'm so thankful for her!
Service doesn’t have to be grandiose.  It doesn’t have to be decorated, or filled with costly treats.  Service is Just extending love one little act at a time.  (Notice I didn’t say one thought at a time!)  It’s not enough to think it!
            The Savior’s words are simple, yet their meaning is profound and deeply significant.

We are to love God and to love and care for our neighbors as ourselves. Imagine what good we can do in the world if we all join together, united as followers of Christ, anxiously and busily responding to the needs of others and serving those around us—our families, our friends, our neighbors, our fellow citizens.

            Remember, honey contains all of the substances necessary to sustain mortal life. And the doctrine and gospel of Christ is the only way to obtain eternal life. Only when our testimony transcends what is in our mind and burrows deep into our heart will our motivation to love and to serve become like unto the Savior’s. It is then, and only then, that we become deeply converted Disciples of Christ empowered by the Spirit to reach the hearts of our fellowmen.

And President Spencer W. Kimball said:

“God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball [2006], 82).

I know that if you do this—at home, at school, at work, and at church—the Spirit will guide you, and you will be able to discern those in need of a particular service that only you may be able to give. You will be prompted by the Spirit and magnificently motivated to help pollinate the world with the pure love of Christ and His gospel.

And remember, like the little honeybee’s one-twelfth teaspoon of honey provided to the hive, if we multiply our efforts by tens of thousands, even millions of prayerful efforts to share God’s love for His children through Christian service, there will be a compounding effect of good that will bring the Light of Christ to this ever-darkening world. Bound together, we will bring love and compassion to our own family and to the lonely, the poor, the broken, and to those of our Heavenly Father’s children who are searching for truth and peace.
First Observe, then serve!

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