True worship

This morning I’m preparing a Primary lesson I almost forgot about because I had an entire week’s notice, as opposed to the last-minute notice I usually get when someone has an emergency and needs a substitute.

In any case, our Primary is reviewing LDS Conference talks so I had lots of choices for subject matter. This is the talk I chose, and for two reasons. 1. I never walk away from the opportunity to read from the account of the Savior’s visit to the Americas after his resurrection. It’s holy and the spirit speaks freely from those verses in 3rd Nephi. 2. It so beautifully captures how and why I’ve come to love communion with God and saints through worship.

For anyone who might wonder why I go to church, even when it means I go alone, this talk sums it up so perfectly.

I know God lives. My heavenly parents love me. And I love them. I look forward to gathering with my congregation–with these people I love–to renew our covenants and fill our hearts with the sweet feeling of love and peace that comes from true worship.

True worship transforms us into sincere and earnest disciples of our beloved Master and Savior, Jesus Christ. We change and become more like Him.

We become more understanding and caring. More forgiving. More loving.

We understand that it is impossible to say that we love God while at the same time hating, dismissing, or disregarding others around us.9

True worship leads to an unwavering determination to walk the path of discipleship. And that leads inevitably to charity. These too are necessary elements of worship.

I want to open my heart to the healing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I want to gather the heavenly light into my soul. I want my life to become the token and expression of my worship.

Cast out our fear

Admittedly, I’m not the best faster in the world. Not even a good one. But I try. And Sunday, even though as I left for church I felt weak and as if I might have a blood sugar reaction, I kept trying. I figured if I made it to church all I had to do was sit for three hours and then I would come home and break my fast with some peanut butter (protein and sugar).

As I slid into the bench I opened the hymnal (which is weird–normally I sing from my iPad, which I’d left at home–but also beautiful, as I needed to feel the weight of these words in my hands as they sunk into my heart).

1. In fasting we approach thee here
And pray thy Spirit from above
Will cleanse our hearts, cast out our fear,
And fill our hunger with thy love
.

2. Thru this small sacrifice, may we
Recall that strength and life each day
Are sacred blessings sent from thee

Fill us with gratitude, we pray.

3. And may our fast fill us with care
For all thy children now in need.
May we from our abundance share,
Thy sheep to bless, thy lambs to feed
.

4. This fast, dear Father, sanctify–
Our faith and trust in thee increase.
As we commune and testify,
May we be filled with joy and peace
.

Text: Paul L. Anderson, b. 1946. (c) 1981 Paul L. Anderson and Lynn R. Carson.

I could hardly finish the song, being so overwhelmed by such a personal response to what I needed, but hadn’t yet articulated in prayer:

Verse 1: I’m desperate for my heart to be cleanse of worry and strife and for the sense of fear and foreboding I often feel to be cast out and replaced with faith and love.

Verse 2: I want to remember daily grace. And recognize in particular the sacred blessing of strength that is not my own.

Verse 3: Though I am often overwhelmed by my day-to-day life, the deepest desire of my heart is to feed His sheep and for a kinder, gentler world where we recognize that we are all His children and work together to share from our abundance.

Verse 4: Commune. I’ve not yet found the words to express how deeply blessed I’ve felt through the past year by being able to gather with members of my ward family to worship our Savior, Jesus Christ. Even though I arrive alone and sometimes find myself wondering who will make room for me on their bench, I feel such a beautiful sense of community.

Liken unto us

[I want to be better at recording a few thoughts that have strengthened my heart of late. I will pre-date them so as to note when the occurred.]

For the first time in a bit I had a slow Sunday morning and made time to read the Sunday School lesson for this day. One of the passages struck me in a particular way:

8 During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit. In process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them; but so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.

9 My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others.

10 In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?

11 While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

12 Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.–Joseph Smith History 1

As I was reading, I suddenly felt this passage in terms of politics instead of religion. The cry and tumult are great and incessant. Everyone is zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenants. I am laboring to understand and yet at a loss to discern what is true.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

And for the first time in awhile, I felt at peace. I remembered that I do not have to sort it out from the clamoring. All I have to do is step away from the noise, sincerely ask, and then listen to the spirit in my heart.