Sunday, December 9, 2012

Charity: Room for a Little One

 This time of year would usually find me frantically drafting, editing and writing our annual holiday letter, stuffing cards in envelopes, mailing packages of gifts to loved ones and getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. However, last Saturday night, I received an early Christmas gift that changed my life for the better. It didn’t arrive in our mailbox or in a package on the porch. It didn’t come by way of Secret Santa or down the chimney. It came as a voicemail message...on my phone:

“Hey Janine, this is Ben Eyre, how’s it going? I wanted to check with you and see if you could speak in church...uh...coming up soon. Would you mind giving me a call? Thanks, Janine.”

Without thinking clearly, I did the first thing that came to mind...I called Ben back! My heart was pounding and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew that I would accept the request enthusiastically.

When I finally got my assignment from Ben, to speak on charity and found out I had only 7 days to prepare, I was slightly flustered. Many of you moms out there know how hectic a regular week can be and with Christmas preparations on top of our daily duties, I was already feeling overwhelmed. No matter, Christmas would have to wait! In fact, the more I thought about it, I would have even more time to embrace the true spirit of Christmas, without all of the unnecessary distractions.

While I have searched, pondered and prayed, over the topic, I have also discovered the best gift to give AND get this Christmas! Now, keep in mind that it cannot be purchased in a store, through a mail-order catalog, or website. In fact, President Thomas S. Monson mentions this gift in a poem by Christina Georgina Rosetti that he shared in one of his past Christmas Devotionals:

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd

I would bring a lamb.
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part,
Yet what can I give Him?
Give my heart.

Heart? Heart? You’re probably wondering, how can I give my heart? Well, that’s where charity comes in... This Christmas, the best gift is to embrace charity by becoming a true follower of Christ!

In preparation for this talk, I searched. I went straight to the source--www.LDS.org--and did a search on charity. I then read scriptures, definitions, countless talks, and lessons pertaining to charity. Now, I always thought, as a convert to the church, I was doing a decent job in the charity department, but it wasn’t until I had prepared for this assignment on charity that I realized I could do better, much better! After some pondering and fervent prayer, I knew that the spirit would guide me to give a talk that you would remember, so let’s start with a story that perfectly illustrates the essence of charity:

Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell & Jason Cockcroft
It was a cold winter’s night.
Kind Ox lay in his stable,
close to the side of the inn.

Old Dog came by.
He stopped and looked into the stable.
“I need somewhere to rest,” said Old Dog.
“Come inside,” Kind Ox said.
“There’s always room for a little one here.”

Old Dog came in and lay down in the straw.
He nestled close to Kind Ox,
sharing the warmth of his stable.

Stray Cat peered in.
She saw Old Dog and she stopped.
Stray Cat arched her back and her fur bristled.
“I’ll not chase you,” said Old Dog.
“Come inside,” Kind Ox said.
“There’s always room for a little one here.”

Stray Cat came into the stable.
She curled up in the straw,
close to the friends she had found,
purring and twitching her tail.

Small Mouse stopped at the door of the stable.
She saw Stray Cat and she quivered with fear.
“You’re safe here--I won’t harm you,” said Stray Cat.
“Come inside,” Kind Ox said.
“There’s always room for a little one here.”

Small Mouse scurried in.
She nestled down warm in the straw,
in the peace of the stable.

Then Tired Donkey came.
Joseph led him along.
Mary rode on Tired Donkey’s back.
Joseph was cold and Mary was weary,
but there was no room at the inn.

“Where will my baby be born?” Mary asked.
“Come inside,” Kind Ox called to Tired Donkey.
“There’s always room for a little one here.”

Tired Donkey brought Mary into the stable.
Joseph made her a warm bed in the straw,
to save her from the cold of the night.

And so Jesus was born with the animals around Him;
Kind Ox,
Old Dog,
Stray Cat,
Small Mouse,
and Tired Donkey
all welcomed Him to the warmth of their stable.

That cold winter’s night,
beneath the star’s light...
...a Little One came for the world.

What is charity?
The first thoughts that came to my mind were casseroles, quilts, cookies, fast offerings, visiting the weak and the weary, serving lunch at the homeless shelter. But really, true charity is much, much more. Real charity is not something you give away; it is something that you acquire and make a part of yourself. And when the virtue of charity becomes implanted in your heart, you are never the same again.

In the scriptures, the Lord said that charity is the “pure love of Christ.” It is the “greatest of all the gifts of God,” “perfect” and “everlasting.” It is the love that Christ has for the children of men and the love that the children of men should have for Christ and one another. It is the highest, noblest, and strongest kind of love and “the most joyous to the soul.”

Who has charity?
As difficult as charity is to describe, it is rather easily recognized in the lives of those who possess it. As I read the following attributes, think of someone who:

  • always has a cheery countenance
  • has recently surprised you with some sort of selfless service
  • shares sincere compliments with others
  • extends invitations to others to participate in uplifting activities
  • readily volunteers when help is needed
  • provides regular & meaningful instruction and guidance for others
  • encourages you in all of your endeavors

Each of these people has charity and the love and light of Christ in their lives.

The Apostle Paul taught that when we have charity we are filled with good feelings for all people. We are patient and kind. We are not boastful or proud, selfish or rude. When we have charity we do not remember or rejoice in the evil others have done. Neither do we do good things just because it is to our advantage. Instead, we share the joy of those who live by truth. When we have charity we are loyal, we believe the best of others, and we are kind to them. The scriptures teach that “charity never faileth.” (See 1 Corinthians 13:4–8.)

One of the more recent examples of charity I have witnessed, has been the good works of my own sister, Elena, who possesses the true spirit of Christ. Just before Halloween this year, we found out that my dad had a malignant brain tumor. Without thinking twice, my sister booked a flight home from her research job in Norway, to be with my parents. As much as we tried to provide words of comfort over the phone, it was the physical presence and support that my parents needed most. My sister fulfilled that need and has been with my parents for about a month now, working diligently, as Christ would, with her hands and her heart. Our family was able to travel down to Thousand Oaks for a week at Thanksgiving time to help with my dad’s surgery, and witness the great work in which she has been engaged. My sister has been loving, patient, understanding and wise. She has had to work as a healer, a counselor, a cook, a comforter, a doctor-patient liaison, a chauffeur, a physical therapist, a secretary, a nurse, a personal trainer, and much more. My sister has shown charity--she has embraced my parents through this monumental trial, as a loving and protective daughter of Christ would.

Where does charity come from?
Charity comes from the heart. Just as the animals in the story, to provide charity, we must also set aside our differences, lower our instinctive barriers and change our attitudes. We must always have room in our hearts for “a little one” who is looking for respite from the somewhat abrasive world around us. Whether you’re an Old Dog, Stray Cat, Small Mouse, or Tired Donkey, we should follow the example of Kind Ox who is continually trusting, inviting, reassuring, healing, offering, befriending, and loving his neighbors, just as Christ does.

Elder Marvin J. Ashton beautifully observed: “Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.”

How can we develop charity?
“As we extend our hands and hearts toward others in Christlike love, something wonderful happens to us,” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf explains. “Our own spirits become healed, more refined, and stronger. We become happier, more peaceful, and more receptive to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. He has given us the perfect example of the kind of men and women we should be.”

The Savior is our perfect example of how to feel toward and treat others, and it is this we must learn, to become truly converted to Jesus Christ. The scriptures, prayer, prophets and apostles provide guidance, instruction and inspiration for us to grow and develop our testimonies of charity.

The greatest acts of charity come from giving of yourself and receiving expressions of charity with humility as well. President Spencer W. Kimball illustrates this truth in an inspiring example. He said: “[The Savior’s] gifts were rare ones: eyes to the blind, ears to the deaf, and legs to the lame; cleanliness to the unclean, wholeness to the infirm, and breath to the lifeless. His gifts were … forgiveness to the repentant, hope to the despairing. His friends gave him shelter, food, and love. He gave them of himself, his love, his service, his life. … We should strive to give as he gave. To give of oneself is a holy gift” (The Wondrous Gift [1978], 2). President Thomas S. Monson also reminds us, “It is well to remember that he who gives money gives much; he who gives time gives more; but he who gives of himself gives all.”

Our ward is truly blessed to have so many true followers of Christ who emanate charity in their daily lives. I am continually impressed with the example that our ward members provide for my family and me. Elaine L. Jack suggests, “This Christmas, we should strive to give as he gave, to give of oneself. When we give our time, our energy, our commitment, our testimony to others, we are giving of ourselves. We are sharing intangibles, not easily left on the doorstep but easily deposited in the heart. So it is with kindness. Nothing will bring the Spirit of the Lord into your meetings, your homes, and your personal associations more quickly than showing kindness. “Charity … is kind” (1 Cor. 13:4).

Personal Testimony
I have a testimony that the best and most clear indicator that we are progressing spiritually and coming unto Christ is the way we treat other people. Do we nurture and build? Do we have an understanding and a forgiving heart? Do we look for the best in people? Do we leave people better than we found them? Just as Kind Ox, we should lend a hand to those who are frightened, lonely, or burdened...Treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance, and care.

I know that the best gift we can give for Christmas this year is our heart, the gift of charity by living the Savior’s teachings and following in His footsteps. I know that if we can be kind, we will find a renewed love of the Lord and an outpouring of love for others. We will always have room in our hearts for a little one, especially, the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Rejoice! For we are truly blessed,

The Weston Family: Abe, Janine, Natalie, Max & Madeline
Weston Family Photos from 2012

Scriptures on Charity
Ether 12:33-34
33 And again, I remember that thou hast said that thou hast loved the world, even unto the laying down of thy life for the world, that thou mightest take it again to prepare a place for the children of men.
34 And now I know that this love which thou hast had for the children of men is charity; wherefore, except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy Father.

1 John 4:18
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

Matthew 25:31-46
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Moroni 7:46-48
46 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
47 But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.

Doctrine and Covenants 12:8; 34:3; 121:45
8 And no one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love, having faith, hope, and charity, being temperate in all things, whatsoever shall be entrusted to his care.
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1 comments:

Teri said...

Thank you for a wonderful talk today!! I loved how quiet all the children were while you read the picture book about the birth of the Savior.