If you need anything, just let me know.
Everyone knows it is not very helpful to say, “If you need anything, just let me know.” Does anyone ever cash in on this offer? It’s so much more helpful to perceive a need and step in and DO something—than to stand around waiting to be called. But I think the same principle holds true in my communication with God. It’s like my perfunctory offer to a neighbor if I say in prayer, “Lord, if you need anything, just let me know. Let me know if I can help anyone.” Posed this way, I have rarely received an answer. Rather, I should say, “Here am I. Send me” (Isaiah 6:8). Then look for someone to help, initiate a plan and go to work. A message of love is extended even if the service misses the mark. It is a beautiful thing to observe people taking personal ownership of another’s burdens. My husband is really good at this. He tackles others’ problems with the same passion and urgency as his own. But sometimes I hesitate, fearing that my offering won’t hit the mark. Or I worry about intruding. Or hesitate because I’m not sure exactly where to begin. I can and want to improve. “God does notice us, and He watches over us. But it is usually through another person that He meets our needs” (Spencer W. Kimball). To make this happen, I must be a willing recipient, and accept another’s offer to help as God’s means of blessing me. It goes both ways. I need to be a proactive agent in serving others, and a willing recipient in accepting another’s offer to help.
Which is harder for you—being an agent of service or a willing recipient?
Who will win? Or can we both be winners?
I once witnessed a demonstration of an arm wrestling match where the objective was dramatically changed. Rather than the typical “put down” by over-powering another, this particular match showed how both contestants could be winners. We have probably all been around individuals who must always be right and express their opinions forcefully. Often they have difficulty apologizing. They need to feel superior, but it usually produces the opposite effect. Who is right and who is wrong? Does it really matter in most instances? Of more importance is the ability to demonstrate understanding, compassion, and love for all. Thus there is no need for a winner or a loser because we are all winners. “The important message is that we control our tongues, and by speaking kind words to each other, emulate in our relationships…the loving kindness the Lord has for His people” (Marion G. Romney). I want to become a better disciple of Christ through words and actions. We are all children of Heavenly Father and deserve courtesy and respect.
There is beauty in a storm
I was going through a difficult time in my life—and it matched the gathering dark clouds late one afternoon, promising a downpour. The walk with my two-year old was brought to a halt. Picking her up and pointing to the sky, we sat on a tree stump to experience nature’s dramatic preparations. All too soon swooping gusts and explosive thunder drove us inside the screen door. We cheerfully applauded each crack of thunder and wind-swept swoosh slamming against the house. While helping my toddler overcome fear of a storm by celebrating its beauty, I suddenly saw something new in my own adversity. Storms in life are as inevitable as storms in nature, certain as rhythm of breath. They can be piercing and harsh, yet my trials reveal surprise jewels of insight and empathy—if I look. Personal storms bring me to my knees pleading for God’s help beyond my own. In my need I am more open to His tutorials and comfort. As nature’s storm passes, a cleansing calm settles. The sun scintillates again, clearer and brighter than before upon the world’s distilled beauty. Similarities are found in the aftermath of life’s storms. I feel cleansed, stronger, closer to God. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalms 30:5). A loving Heavenly Father walks with me through every storm. He promised, “that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” (D&C 122:7). Always, the sun shines again.
- What have you discovered about life’s storms?
Forms with rebar in place ready to receive the concrete to make reinforced concrete.
As an engineering student in college, I learned that concrete has many useful purposes in the building industry. Testing concrete in the laboratory proves that it works well when loads press downward in compression loading. But when tests are reversed, and tension (pulling) is applied, concrete quickly fails. The reason? Elements in concrete do not properly handle tension. By adding steel rebar, concrete can handle both compression and tension loading. This combined product is called reinforced concrete. My life is like concrete, loaded with stress and trials—pushing me down and pulling me in opposing directions. Without reinforcement, I will surely fail. I ask myself—What can I do to reinforce my character to withstand the weight of life’s challenges? I believe they are simple things, such as studying scriptures daily, praying often, and seeking opportunities to love and serve others. These and other worthy actions, though individually small, strengthen me to bear my burdens. It’s a new way to think about being a man of steel.
How do you answer the question, “So what do you do?”
When someone asks, “So, what do you do?”—most people expect a one-liner that describes a line of work or passion. Such labels might be, “I teach school,” or “I run marathons,” or “I’m a doctor,” or “I’m a musician.” I like the reply that the author/poet Emma Lou Thayne offered when asked that question. She said, “I do people.” I want this to be my answer too—focusing on people—in every season of life, no matter what other titles I wear. I’m still learning and will never get it mastered, but I’ll never quit trying. Focusing on people means getting outside myself and into the hearts of others with empathy and advocacy. It’s seeking new relationships while nurturing old ones. It’s ministering in countless creative ways. Leo Tolstoy—a favorite author of mine said, “The purpose of life is simply to grow in love.” Isn’t there a distinction between falling in love and growing in love? Falling is effortless; growing takes time and effort. “The best and most clear indicator that we are progressing spiritually and coming unto Christ is the way we treat other people…Could this be because the way we treat each other is the foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ?” (Marvin J. Ashton). I think the most important use of my time is to invest it in people. So next time someone asks, “What do you do?”—watch the surprised response to your answer: “I do people!”
Have you ever had “ONE OF THOSE DAYS” when everything seems to go wrong? Perhaps the alarm didn’t chime (at least so you could hear it); there was no milk in the fridge for cereal; you spilled on your favorite shirt; you ran out of gas in your car; or you couldn’t find your cell phone. A wise teacher said, “Remember that Heavenly Father is more powerful than Satan, so don’t let Satan get you down.” Any of the above experiences might lead to Satan dragging us down. When this happens to me I feel discouraged. But discouragement doesn’t come from the Lord. To change my attitude, I seek direction from the scriptures or the words of living prophets contained in Church magazines (Ensign or Liahona). “Scripture power keeps me safe from sin. Scripture power is the power to win. Scripture power! Every day I need the power that I get each time I read” (LDS Primary Hymnbook). Words from this song are intended to direct young people, but I also find them uplifting. When discouraged, I apply a good dose of scriptures, and am lifted with spiritual refreshment. Myopic view of problems flips to the bigger picture of what I can become and what the Lord wants me to accomplish here on earth. It is a simple formula that works for me.
It was the end of a difficult day. I was struggling against feelings of resentment toward someone who had acted dishonestly. There was a justifiable legal recourse we could take, but this would drag us into a contentious battle over a prolonged period of time. After evening prayer, Alan and I climbed into bed and lay awake for a long time exploring various options. My tears were close to the surface because I couldn’t see a clear path to resolve the problem. Finally, my wise sweetheart said, “My suggestion is for us to stay on the high road. If we choose to keep our course straight and our standards high—if we never stoop to resentment or revenge, the Lord will help us manage as He has in the past. I think it’s best to let this issue go. Everything will work out.” Hearing this counsel, I immediately felt a change settle over me. Frustration turned to peace. The Spirit confirmed that this was the right course to pursue in this situation. Later I framed a magnificent photograph of a “high road” to keep us in remembrance of this path. It applies to every choice in life.
The high road reveals a clear view