Sunday, August 10, 2008

Thank You, God, For Everything by Helen Steiner Rice

Thank You, God, For Everything

Thank you, God, for everything,
The big things and the small.
For "every good gift comes from God"...
The giver of them all.
And all too often we accept, without any thanks or praise,
The gifts God sends as blessings, each day in many ways.
And so at this Thanksgiving Time, we offer up a prayer...
To thank you, God, for giving us a lot more than our share.

First, thank you for the little things
That often come our way,
The things we take for granted
But don't mention when we pray,
The unexpected courtesy, the thoughtful, kindly deed,
A hand reached out to help us in the time of sudden need.
Oh, make us more aware, dear God, of little daily graces
That come to us with "sweet surprise"
From never-dreamed-of places.

Then, thank you for the "Miracles"
We are much too blind to see,
And give us new awareness of our many gifts from Thee,
And help us to remember that the Key of Life and Living
Is to make each prayer a Prayer of Thanks
And every day Thanksgiving
--Helen Steiner Rice

Without Peter to help me carry Elizabeth and her things in church today, I considered (just for a moment) either not going to church at all or staying only for Sacrament Meeting. While at church, I told one of my young-mother friends that I brought the giant stroller with me to do the carrying even though it's not particularly maneuverable in crowded hallways, she said, "Yeah, sometimes I wonder if it's even worth coming at all. I mean am I really gonna get anything out of it?"

Well, even though I was holding a teething baby with nobody to spell me or haul her stuff, I got something out of all three meetings today, some of them, really profound personal applications of the doctrine we were studying. As part of my New Years resolution to notice, write down, and share the tender mercies I see in my life, here are the things I learned in Church today.

The first was in the High Council speaker's talk (as a sidenote, because the assigned speaker was injured yesterday, he only had a couple of hours to prepare to speak while he was getting ready this morning, so his talk was disorganized -- several times he led right up to what seemed like it was going to be a very interesting point, but then he'd move on to the next subject without actually bringing the pieces together. I was able to catch some of them, but being distracted with Elizabeth, I'm sure I missed a few.) Anyway, the bit that I found interesting came in the context of talking about the Iron Rod in Nephi's Dream. He had looked up the word "canon" in the dictionary and found that it came from the Greek "Kanon" which was their word for a measuring rod which also came to be the word "cane" or a rod to help you walk. So the word of God in our canonical scriptures is literally a rod that measures our obedience and helps us to walk the strait and narrow.

In Sunday School, we were talking about Alma 40-42. This is where Alma is talking to his son Corianton about resurrection, justice and mercy. The teacher used a credit card as an example of the debt of sin Christ's atonement pays off to mercifully meet the demands of justice. To get the class thinking, she asked, "Is that fair? if somebody else pays your debt are you going to learn anything?" To respond, I raised my hand and shared the following personal story:

A few months ago, my husband Peter lost his job when his company laid of 40% of their employees. We had a small amount of money in the bank, but we spent most of our savings to put a down payment on a house a year ago. When we looked at our budget, even with unemployment insurance, we knew we couldn't meet the mortgage payment ourselves. Peter's family sent us some money, my family sent us some money, I took extra work, and the church helped out with food from the Bishop's Storehouse, and we were able to pay our bills until Peter found a temp job.

Justice said we had a debt to pay, and we couldn't do it ourselves. Was it fair to ask other people to pay the debt that we owed that month? Not in the strict sense if he word. On the other hand, would it be fair for us to lose our house and credit rating because the company executives made bad business decisions? No, that's not right either. So that's why our loving Earthly and Heavenly parents are willing to sacrifice to provide a way for Mercy to cover the demands of Justice.

At the end of Sunday School, the teacher came over and thanked me for sharing in class. I thanked her for teaching the earlier material and asking questions in such a way that helped to bring the Spirit into the room and helped me to think of this example. Until she asked that question, I hadn't put the two ideas together. And as the lesson moved on to talk about repentance and righteous living, I thought of something my mom had told me when I asked for financial help. "It will be a lot easier for your dad to send money," she said, "if Peter is working at any job at all -- even if it's part time work that's far below his skill level." I realized that my dad was once again being an example of Christ. He knew that Peter couldn't earn the money we needed. No matter what Peter or I did, we didn't deserve the gift Dad was going to give us. But Dad also knew that for us to grow from this experience, we had to do all that we could do before he would made up the rest. As with the atonement, it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

In Relief Society, we had the lesson on Establishing the Cause of Zion from the Joseph Smith manual. The teacher talked about how the Lord uses the term Zion to mean a specific place, his people, the church, and even a state of mind. So I started thinking about what Zion means to me.

I grew up in rural Ohio, where there's not a lot of LDS youth. That, and my native personality, made me feel like an outsider in many situations. I was privileged to go to EFY in 1992 when the theme was "A Time to be of One Heart" referring to Moses 7:18 "And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them." During that conference, with hundreds of other LDS youth, I finally felt like I was part of something larger than myself. There we were, all in the same place for the same reason, supporting each other in our faith and commitment to God. I knew that I would be willing to work hard to feel like that again.

When the teacher asked what we could do to build up Zion, I told that story, and said that we need to work hard to get that feeling of being "Of one Heart" but it's possible. If we fulfill our callings, go Visiting Teaching, actively participate in class, come to activities, fellowship with the Saints, etc, we can make a Zion community in our Ward and Stake. It's hard work, but I know it's worth it.

PS: the photo is of Elizabeth and her friends in our Friday playgroup -- one of the ways that my friends and I are trying to create Zion in our ward.


  1. Just leaving you a comment so you can find my blog if you want to.

  2. Did you remember that Helen Steiner Rice is from Lorain?

  3. No I didn't. I'm not sure where I found this poem. I thought it was in the Tender Mercies talk, but now I see that it's not.


  4. Thanks for your thoughts, Karen. I love that many tender mercies and little miracles in our lives, when shared, help others see the ones in theirs.
    I've also had many "Is this worth it?" thoughts with Anna during church, but if I make the effort to go, I always feel the spirit no matter how much of the talk or lesson material I'm missing.
    I also have some great friends in our ward who cultivate a community of service, kindness, and friendship. They are wonderful examples and supports for me.


  5. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. We had those same lessons on Sunday, and you added to them for me.

  6. now see...that's why you got things out of struggling through church prepared yourself all your life to have comments to share. Thanx.

  7. My grandmother LOVED Helen Steiner Rice. all my growing up years, she'd quote her, by the way.

  8. Karen,
    Thanks for this entry. Helps me to remember how going is better than staying home. It's great to get your perspective. And... Elizabeth will grow up knowing how important it is to go no matter what which is where her testimony will begin.