There was a speaker at our church service today that gave a message that has given me a lot of food for thought today. (Thanks, Norm!) He referred to a theme in a talk that our Stake President had given (at the conference I wasn't around for several weeks ago), from Psalms 116:12: "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?" Now, neither our speaker today nor the Stake President several weeks ago were directing their message to just the wealthy expats in the room with their lives of abundance, but to all, rich and poor. The message of the scripture is not about sharing monetary wealth, but about giving of ourselves, to render our will and our desires to the Lord -- for we all, in whatever station in life, have been given benefits. It's about living lives of consecration toward God.
I had a brief conversation about this subject with a fellow expat this week as I went with him to visit one of our AWC charities. He was getting some information from the charity he needed to complete an application for a corporate grant for some funding for them, and he also wanted to deliver some donations he and others had gathered for their school -- over 1000 pens along with other school supplies. On the drive home I mentioned how inspired I was by the nuns running the community center and how they give their whole lives to serving God by serving this disadvantaged community. He began his response by saying "I'm a really bad Christian," (by that meaning that he didn't go to church much any more). I responded to him that church attendance aside, just the fact that he was going out of his way to assist this charity in their work (this was his third visit there) was pretty good evidence of Christian behavior. Anyway, he referenced the Bible story of the widow's mite and how this very poor widow gave all that she had and how we in our abundance give our little bit and we don't even notice that it's gone. We talked about how it's difficult to know how to give and how much to give, but we both agreed that it's only a sacrifice if we notice the difference after we've given something, and at times it would be good for us to give until it hurts a little bit.
Yesterday I went over to the church to give some piano lessons to some of the children I teach. They were at the church for a Primary activity giving some very appreciated service doing some deep cleaning of the building. None of my students had been doing much piano practicing -- they said that the batteries in the keyboards that they had been given (the church has a program of donating keyboards to students where there is a piano teacher for them) had been used up and they didn't often have "lights" (meaning electricity) to allow them to work. It was another reminder of the differences in our lives. In my home, even though the lights go out more often here than they do in the US, the power is on much more than it is off. And if my batteries for something are used up, it is easy to get fresh ones to replace them. Here in Nigeria, there are lots of reminders of the "benefits" that I have been given, the abundance in my life.
But, back to our church speaker today, he went on to say that in figuring out our own personal answer to the question "What shall I render unto the Lord?" we can follow the steps that Nephi went through when he wanted an answer from God (in the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 11:1) -- he desired to know, he believed that God was there and would answer his prayer, and he pondered and was ready to listen for an answer from God. And then our speaker talked about the importance of just being aware of opportunities around us to render service. He referenced a scripture in Proverbs that hadn't been marked in my scriptures, but is now -- Proverbs 23:26: "Give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways." I really love that! If we give our hearts over to God, we are more open to observing of His ways and we will become more aware of the things that God would have us render to Him. We are more open to learning His ways from Him because we will be able to see with His eyes. I really need to ponder more about how I can do that and what the Lord would have me render to Him.