I’m grateful for elbow pads. I’ve always scoffed at them a bit, thinking that they weren’t really all that cute or fashionable as people think. But for the first time ever I wore elbow pads today. (Of course Katy was the one to give me the elbow padded sweater because I don’t experiment unless it’s Katy inspired) That rubbing or discomfort that I feel when I have my elbows on the desk at school- gone. I might as well have my own personal air conditioning… elbow pads make life sweeter.
Yesterday I gave a talk in church. I’d thought about it a lot, but hadn’t had much time to nail it down. Saturday night instead of going out with friends after the Men’s Chorus concert* I came home to work on my talk. I got distracted and didn’t touch my talk. The next morning I had meetings from 8:30 am to 11. I came home at 11, got ready for church, helped Genny with the baby and suddenly it was 12:15. I panicked and left for church thinking that I would better prepare there. As I sat in the Wilkenson center I pondered what I could possibly muster up out of my pocket that wouldn’t seem like random words thrown on the page. I remembered Brother Bott telling us the three steps to a talk. Of course I didn’t remember them, but I did remember that he told us to make three points that helped accomplish our purpose and that you should have a story or scripture to accompany each of them. So I made a list of stories about gratitude and searched for a couple of scriptures. Did you know that ‘gratitude’ isn’t in the bible dictionary? Neither can it be found in the topical guide (although Thanksgiving is there), the Christ-like attributes, or anywhere in Preach My Gospel. I’m sure that there are references to it throughout all of these books- but no way to look them up. Oh heavens, I was in a fix.
What should have been my worst talk ever given, turned out to be probably my best. I think Heavenly Father holds me in a special place in His heart. He never stops blessing me. Here is an overview of the things that I talked about:
Point 1– Gratitude eliminates trials (believe it or not). A young father, busy with school and full-time work awoke in the wee hours of the morning to care for his son who- in the fathers eyes- never slept. He was tired and done. He picked up the baby and started rocking him back and forth to quiet him and prepared his heart to offer up a prayer to God that the baby would go to sleep. All he wanted was for the baby to sleep. As he looked at the small child his urgency to pray disappeared not because he no longer wanted to pray, but because he didn’t have a reason to. He was so grateful for that small child in his arms that nothing else in the world seemed to matter. It was no longer a trial to be awake at four. In the face or the reality of God’s great blessings to us- we forget our self pity and pains.
President Joseph F. Smith said, “The grateful man sees so much in the world to be thankful for, and with him the good outweighs the evil. Love overpowers jealousy, and light drives darkness out of this life.”
Point 2– Gratitude guarantees that God will send us help and comfort. (this is where I told a story about the Vietnamese, but didn’t necessarily mention that they were people that I had met on my mission. What I did tell is one hundred percent true) For a culture in education class I was asked to interview a refugee. I interviewed a family from Vietnam that emigrated in 2011. Most of the conducted interview was done with a young girl named Yuong who is fifteen years old. Yuong when asked about her journey to the United States was nothing but grateful and gracious. She mentioned the fact that her family was separated by countries, oceans, and miles but continued to thank God as we discussed her living situation. When you walk into the home of this family you see how little they have. They don’t have anything to clean up, let alone anything to clean with. You would never find soap in their bathroom. They need nothing more than the assurance that their God is there. They count every blessing and God sends them love and comfort throughout each trial. When I asked her about the hardest part in coming to the America’s she said that she missed Vietnam. She misses have nothing (which is what I thought she had currently). She called the world that we live in ‘dangerous’ because there is too much that is available to want or have. This is when I learned that gratitude is the acting force that overcomes our tendency to covet.
Point 3– Making our prayers more heartfelt not only insures that we are more grateful, but it helps us to be more loving, forgiving, and optimistic about the future. [I didn’t have time to tell the story that went this principle so I talked about how we can do this] When I thought about what we could do as a congregation to make those steps to deeper gratitude I knew that I needed to talk about prayer. Being grateful- in my mind- doesn’t start with a list of Thank you’s. It starts with a list of blessings that you want for others. A grateful person is mindful of what others need before them-self. It seems silly, but the further I got out on my mission the more I realized that I could never remember all of the people that I needed to pray for regardless of how much I loved them. So I made a list, and I added to it each day based on the needs that I saw and felt in my heart. I reviewed this list before praying and as I did each night, my list of ‘thank thee’s’ increased exponentially. Make a list. Show the Lord how much you care for His sheep. Ray Huntington said, “Prayer awakens our grateful heart. Forgetfulness is an obstacle to being grateful while “awareness is a precondition” to having a grateful heart. Our personal prayers provide us with sacred time to ponder our blessings and express gratitude to Heavenly Father.”
There are many reasons to be grateful: some other reasons are because when we are grateful God is permitted to send us greater blessings, we have better perspective, and our doubts and insecurities ‘fly’.
Last but not least, “as we thank Him daily, our gratitude should be centered on God’s greatest gift to us: the gift of His Beloved Son, who ransomed us through the shedding of His blood. (Ray Huntington)” Reading this quote is what brought everything together for me. Pure Gratitude recognizes not what we have, but the greatness of He who gives.
* The Men’s Chorus concert was phenomenal. They had wonderful music, dynamic, and spirit. They had four songs that were ‘on the range’ focused that made me feel right at home. The encore was a beautiful rendition of Danny Boy. If I wasn’t enjoying myself enough, my grandmother was sitting right behind me in the audience making comments like “That song just has me over pouring with joy”, “what a magnificent arrangement”, and deep breathy sighs every two minutes or so. My friend Wayd- also known as Elder Odle from my mission- sat on my right side while my roommate Chelsie and her friend Maggie were on the other. I haven’t even touched the best part yet. They did four songs from the Jungle book. My cousin Benji was Balou. He came out singing with all that he’s got and dancing all over the stage. His smile which is so contagious just lit up the room with every note he let out. We thought that he would just be there for one number, but he sang one- went back into the Men’s chorus crowd where everyone was dancing and popped back out second later all dressed in a grass skirt and bright red lei. He continued dancing and singing about things like the ‘prickly pear’, he pretended to drop it and took the occasion to shake his behind to the whole audience (while not missing a beat in his singing repertoire) and beating his chest and dancing around. He came back out to dance with the king of the monkeys later on as well. Monkey or itchy bear imitations- i love my cousin. He made me so happy. Chelsie has gotten to know him pretty well as he comes over to the house all the time and when he started dancing like that she burst into laughing tears. What a great night it was.