Loving the One

Important appointment.  Scouts.  Running late.  Chili in the crockpot.  Why was he late?  Finally he walked in the door followed by a tall dark stranger.  Of course!  He had stopped to pick up William for the scout activity!  William, one of the children I wrote about in my last post was now nearly as tall as Ben, a mountain of a boy that looked more like a man.  I didn’t recognize him at first he had grown so much.

“Hi William!” I said delighted.  He smiled and said hi back.  I love it when he looks at me with his shy smiling eyes, like he knows just how happy I am to see him and he loves it.  He sat in the living room and waited while we shuffled around getting boys off devices and gathering supplies.  I was embarrassed that the house was a mess.  I started picking up the red ornaments that Austin had scattered across the entryway.  William got up and helped me pick up ornaments.  Layne raced past him to get shotgun in the van, but William stayed until every ornament was put away.  Devin noticed as we praised William’s thoughtfulness.  I was grateful for the good example he had shown to my sons who are often not as conscientious of their mother as they should be.  

Most mothers probably wouldn’t be as happy as I am to have William in our home.  They wouldn’t be so eager to nurture their children’s friendships with him.  I see in him what some can’t see because they look on the outside.  William has a good heart, and that is the only thing my Lord sees.  Why should I fear what my Lord considers unimportant?

When the boys came back from their activity, I got to hear about all their adventures at Urban Air trampoline park.  All three of our reluctant scouters were there.  One doesn’t come to church.  One doesn’t like scouts, and the other, William, comes irregularly.  Often those three feel like outsiders among the tight knit group of boys and they need a little extra from their leaders to help them get what they need from the activities.  Last night, they got it!  It was lovely.

I was especially impressed with Ben.  Tuesday night while I was at choir practice, he had managed to load up all the boys and take cookies over to William’s house to give to him and his siblings.  He issued a personal invitation to William to come to the activity.  He stopped on his way home from work even though that made him a little bit late to the activity.  He did the needful thing.  He was the shepherd that the Master needed to nudge that sheep back into the fold.  

It is hard to wrap your head around the ripple effects of what happened last night when a church leader did the needful thing.  How can someone measure the good effect of a man exercising his priesthood power to magnify his calling and bless the life of one boy?  Everyone benefits!  My boys see that their father cares enough about that one boy that he will fight his whole family off from a package of cookies, herd them into the van, drive quite a distance to give them to him, and then come back the next day to take him to scouts.  He isn’t going to get any awards for that!  He won’t get any praise.  That doesn’t matter.  The only thing that matters is that William knows that we love him and that we want him to be in our ward family.  What does that teach my sons about the worth of a soul to their father?  To the Lord?  Even if that child has a different color of skin, even if his parents don’t come to church, even if he has made some bad choices; he is worth that extra time and effort.  He matters.  The one matters.

It makes me think of my Master and what manner of man he was.  I call myself his handmaid, but every day I choose whether or not to earn the title.  I must do as He did to be worthy to take His name upon me.  I must go about doing the needful thing however uncomfortable I feel or make others feel.  Sometimes we have to speak uncomfortable things to those who need to hear them because those who feel uncomfortable are unable to speak for themselves.  We will all be blessed if we listen to the cries of the one in the wilderness.  We can leave the 99.  They will be better for our efforts in behalf of the one.  

How marvelous are the doings of my Lord?  Who can measure the grace and majesty of his handiwork?  Who can say how great His love for his children?  It would be easier to count the grains of sand on the seashore than to comprehend the eternities of His love and power.  He is Mighty to Save!  Mighty to Save!  And blessed be all those who labor, for the field is ripe with souls to save.  We need only bring them to Him.  One by one.

Prints by Shawn

Sitting with the 99

“They aren’t here again,” I said to Ben on Sunday. We were concerned that they would stop coming when their Grandma moved away. Four little black children aged 14 to 6, their parents work several jobs to provide for them, used to occupy the back row of the chapel, but their dark faces and bright t-shirts were not there. We first met them when the oldest boy started coming to scouts. Ben took him under his wing, and before long, we were bringing him and his siblings with us to church. When Grandma moved to town, we brought her along too. Sometimes there wasn’t enough room in our van there were so many who wanted to come. I became very attached to all of them, but in the two little ones I saw something very special. In their eyes I saw generations of future little black boys and girls yet unborn who might have better lives if they had a few of the benefits and opportunities that some of the other children in our ward family take for granted. I saw myself as a catalyst for those children, a cog in the works, an instrument in His hands, to bring some blessings to some of His precious little ones with their dark skin and their soft fluffy hair. Without those little ones, the ward family seemed strangely incomplete; like a Christmas tree without tinsel, or even a violin without strings. Perhaps the Master said it best when he told the story of the shepherd and his 100 sheep. He knew that one was missing and he left the 99 and went out to find the one that was lost. How many of our ward family are lost? How many do we search for? Are our hymns lacking some voices that we need to be complete? Are our congregations too stale with the same familiar faces? Some are offended by my words. They think I am too hard on our leaders who are volunteer and are doing all they can to fulfill their responsibilities. To them I would say, there is one thing that is needful, and I fear we are often choosing to neglect the better part. As those who call ourselves by His name, perhaps we don’t need to give more, just differently. I sit on the same side of the table as you. I too have a calling, I too am a volunteer, I have the same size of vehicle as anyone else, and I am just now getting to church on time. It has been two weeks in a row now. The depression is still hard. It would be so easy to say, “Let someone else help those children. I have done enough. It is time for me to sit comfortably with the 99.” The siren song of complacency is compelling, but charity never faileth. Those children know who loves them and the sheep will only go with their shepherd. Are we the Master’s shepherd? Are we His hands when action is needed, or are we comfortably sitting with the 99? My words are not intended as criticism, but as an invitation. We can do better. We must do better. The lambs of his fold cry out to him in the wilderness and he hears their cries. Do we? If we have the vanity to call ourselves by His name and have not charity, we are as sounding brass. At the last day, we will call out for mercy and he will close the door of the kingdom saying, “I never knew you. Depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” There is a better future in store for all of us. Let us develop that charity which never faileth. Let us fill our chapels with the tatooed and those that smell of cigarette smoke. Let us pack our pews with colorful t-shirts, and blue jeans. Let us load up our vans to bursting with the children of those whose parents are unable to come for whatever reason. Let us fill our hymns with the sounds of all kinds of voices as we reach out to the Master for healing. There is enough room for them! He is Mighty to Save! Then will He be there with us, His arms outstretched, “For I was hungry and ye gave me meat. I was thirsty and ye gave me drink, I was naked and ye clothed me. I was sick and ye visited me, I was in prison and ye came unto me…..Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you.”
Prints by Shawn