Drinking From My Saucer
Devotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young Univeristy-Hawaii
November 20, 2003
Director of Cultural Presentations, Polynesian Cultural Center
As you've heard from my introduction, I grew up in Samoa and life as a youngster was heaven. Our family didn't own a television set until I was about 8 or 9. We had only one large bedroom in our house and our whole family of 7 fit in there quite comfortably for many years. We found our sweets in the yard--in the guava tree, mango tree, vi tree, papaya tree and banana trees. We looked forward to our dad returning from his trips to America because it meant a suitcase full of clothes from D.I.-- our favorite store. One of my favorite toys was a homemade car that us children would build from wild hibiscus wood. We'd use the ends of empty mackerel cans for wheels and if we really wanted it be spectacular, we'd attach an empty can to the handle of the car, and light a small piece of dried coconut husk to put in it to create a smoking exhaust. Now those were extremely happy times for me.
Then things began to change. As I got older, I noticed those clothes from D.I. were all used and not brand new. I preferred to have ready-made dresses that I saw in the Sears catalog rather than sewing my own. One pair of jeans was no longer good enough for me. One of my favorite childhood activities was getting together with my brothers and sisters to slowly go through pages and pages of the Sears Christmas catalog to dream of actually owning all those things. I became increasingly aware of what I didn't have and it was emphasized even more as school teachers from America would come to Samoa on 3 year contracts and their children graciously shared their skateboards, brand new bikes and mini-hondas with us. It just wasn't the same as owning those things myself. I began comparing their perceived bushels of plenty to my cup of meager blessings.
Unfortunately, I started resenting the simple life in Samoa because my choices of material belongings was so limited and I thought it also limited my happiness. Because of my expectation that I deserved more than what I had, it blinded me to the many treasures that already surrounded me. This type of ingratitude, if not curbed, can lead to selfish behavior for anyone.
In the Old Testament we read how, after years and years of being in bondage to the Egyptians and being put through severe labor to build the kingdoms of the pharaohs, the children of Israel could only dream and pray to be liberated from the harsh life they lived as slaves to the pharaohs. That liberation eventually came through Moses who was called to lead them to the Promised Land. However, it wasn't too long after they left Egypt that they started comparing life in the wilderness with the "good life" they left behind in Egypt. They were blinded to the blessings of freedom they were enjoying in the desert -- no whips, no long hours of hard labor, and they didn't even have to worry anymore about evil laws that eliminated their oldest child.
Maybe they weren't use to walking long distances for days on end, or camping for long periods of time, or going without the modern conveniences that downtown Egypt had to offer them. So they complained to Moses in Exodus 16:3 "Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger."
How many times have we fallen prey to this same predicament? Our limited vision affects our attitudes to the point that we focus on a few inconveniences in our life and then fail to realize all the blessings spilling from our cups of plenty.
We're all familiar with the half a glass of water object lesson. To the pessimist, the glass is half empty, whereas, the optimist sees it as half full. Why the difference in appearance? It is dependent on our character and attitude. One sees decline and another recognizes opportunity and abundance. But let's continue filling our cup. We've all heard that familiar phrase, "my cup runneth over" when referring to having an abundance of something. Have you ever been overwhelmed with blessings and joy that it felt as if your cup was overflowing onto your saucer?
I received the following poem some years ago and it perfectly describes the message I want to convey to you all today. Unfortunately, the author was unidentified so I'm unable to give credit to their insightful, yet grateful thinking. It's entitled:
"Drinking From My Saucer"
I'e never made a fortune and it's probably too late now:
But I don't worry about that much, I'm happy anyhow.
And as I go along life's way, I'm reaping better than I sowed;
I'm drinking from my saucer, 'cause my cup has overflowed.
Haven't got a lot of riches, and sometimes the going's tough;
But I've got loving ones around me, and that makes me rich enough.
Thank God for His blessings, and the mercies He's bestowed;
I'm drinking from my saucer, 'cause my cup has overflowed.
O, Remember times when things went wrong, my faith wore somewhat thin;
But all at once the dark clouds broke, and sun peeped through again.
So Lord, help me not to gripe about the tough rows that I've hoed;
I'm drinking from my saucer, 'cause my cup has overflowed.
If God gives me strength and courage, when the way grows steep and rough;
I'll not ask for other blessings, I'm already blessed enough.
This poem was very inspirational to me because its message is not to be casually thankful for the obvious, rather, it points out the vast opportunities we have to acknowledge and be filled by the ever-flowing abundance of Heavenly Father's love for us. Our imperfections set our own limitations on gratitude. We might be guilty of thanking Him for a limited amount of blessings because we have failed to put wide-angle lenses on our soul to see the vast quantity of blessings around us to really be thankful for. Some expressions of gratitude fall short of the Lord's expectations. "And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not His hand in all things, and obey not His commandments" (D&C 59:21).
Why is it critical for us to recognize the blessings that are overflowing from our personal cups into our saucers? In 1 Thes. 5:18, we read, "In every thing give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." Simply, it is a commandment of God that we acknowledge His hand in all things and we are to offer our thanks to Him.
When Alma and Amulek went on their mission to the Zoramites, Amulek taught them in Alma 34:38, "that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which He doth bestow upon you."
The counsel given to the Zoramites and to us was not to live in thanksgiving weekly, monthly or yearly -- we were instructed to be thankful daily. Although the Thanksgiving holiday is an annual celebration, it shouldn't prevent us from developing a thankful heart that compels us to turn our hearts toward the Savior daily for all He has done for us.
Furthermore, D&C 136:28 instructs us, "If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving."
I think we did a good job of applying this scripture when we celebrated PCC's 40th anniversary last month. We were definitely merry and we did thank the Lord with singing, music and with dancing. One of the purposes for having the anniversary festivities was --
to express our gratitude to our Father in Heaven for sustaining us (PCC) the past 40 years."
During the weeks that led up to the commemoration, I felt like my cup was overflowing and I was drinking from my saucer as fast as I could so that none of the goodness and exhilaration I was feeling could escape me. Like many others, I saw old friends I hadn't seen in years. I met new friends who were so excited to be back at PCC to reminisce their precious memories with the rest of their PCC family and to say thank you for what they learned during their employment. I especially enjoyed going to rehearsals for the alumni show to see alumni resurrect their dancing skills just for a chance to repeat something they enjoyed doing in their younger days.
What a thrill it was to see Bro. Funaki, Bro. Kongaika, Bro. Tolutau, Elder Vamanrav and our Tongan village chief, Fetu'u Falevai, and Ed Fa join in with other talented alumni of the Tongan section to relive their glory days on the PCC stage. They were not begged from their air-conditioned offices, they wanted to be at the rehearsals and dance in the show even if it meant they'd be using lots of Bengay afterwards to soothe some sore muscles. They didn't expect preferred placement center stage because of their titles, they stood where they were assigned and didn't demand special recognition. They were so thankful to be physically able to still dance, to reunite with their friends and to have the opportunity to dance for the prophet and their families--for free even.
My cup continued to overflow with blessings of happiness and joy as we had the opportunity to attend the special conference with Pres. and Sis. Hinckley right here in the Cannon Center. The memorable choir music, and the spirit of each speaker set a very humble and grateful tone for us to receive the counsel and message of our beloved prophet. I was so thankful to have Sis. Hinckley in attendance because I know that a great portion of Pres. Hinckley's strength and endurance springs from her good health and quiet companionship.
At the conclusion of the conference, I mentioned to some friends that I felt so joyful and uplifted that I had no desire to do any wrong from that time forward. My heart was uttering prayers of thanksgiving on over-time that day. Have you ever been that happy? If you have ever been a part of someone's conversion, or experienced a new child coming in to your home, or seeing your grown-up child go in to the House of the Lord to receive their endowments, then you have felt that same deep sense of inexpressible joy and gratitude. You can't help but express your love and appreciation to Heavenly Father during those times.
Elder Gordon T. Watts of the Seventy said that "Joy and happiness are born of gratitude," and I was extremely grateful that Pres. and Sis. Hinckley had the desire and the physical well-being to join us for the PCC celebration. Especially, since they had just visited us this past June for BYU-Hawaii's graduation. I don't know how many other towns outside of Utah have had the blessing of a prophet visiting them twice in the same year.
Now, I know it's easy to identify and rejoice in our blessings when things are going good. But how about those times when we're experiencing difficulties and there seems to be little around us to be grateful for? This is when the real test of our character and attitude are determined. It takes courage to look beyond those trials immediately before us to count the blessings that seem to be disguised.
In the 1995 July Visiting Teaching message entitled "More Gratitude Give Me," it explains how gratitude helps us recognize God's influence all around us and how gratitude reflects our spiritual maturity even through times of adversity.
These two principles are depicted in one of my favorite books called, The Hiding Place. It is a true story of the extraordinary adventure of Corrie Ten Boom--a courageous Christian woman who became a militant heroine of the anti-Nazi underground in Holland.
Her family had been engaged in hiding people from the Nazis in their home. Eventually, the protective acts of the Ten Boom family were discovered and they were sent to the dreadful concentration camps. Despite the misery, filth and disease they experienced in the various camps, Corrie and her sister, Betsie, always seemed to find a reason to rejoice.
On one occasion, Corrie was overcome with joy to have a compact Bible smuggled in to her. It became a source of strength to her and the other prisoners as she whispered its divine messages to the hungry souls of her cell mates. When Corrie and her sister Betsie, eventually ended up at Ravensbruck, the notorious women's extermination camp, she did not succumb to despair and depression. Rather, she continued to find God's influence in her tragic situation. She wrote, "Life in Ravensbruck took place on two separate levels, mutually impossible. One, the observable, external life, grew everyday more horrible. The other, the life we lived with God (through their secret Bible readings), grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory" (pg. 195).
On page 198, Betsie demonstrated her spiritual maturity when she expressed gratitude for her appalling circumstances. When the sisters and other women prisoners were assigned to the large room, known as Barracks 28, they were horrified to find the place swarming with fleas. As Corrie asked how they were supposed to live in such conditions, she discovered that Betsie, her more spiritually mature sister, was asking God aloud "Show us. Show us how." Almost immediately, Betsie answered her own question when she said excitedly, "Corrie! He's given us the answer! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!"
"I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then drew the bible from its pouch. 'It was in First Thessalonians,' I said. 'Here it is: 'Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all.' It seemed written expressly to Ravensbruck.
'Go on,' said Betsie. 'That wasn't all.'
'Oh yes: 'to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus ---'
'That's it, Corrie! That's His answer. 'Give thanks in all circumstances!' That's what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!'
I stared at her, then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.
'Such as?'I said.
'Such as being assigned here together.'
I bit my lip. 'Oh yes, Lord Jesus!'
'Such as what you're holding in your hands.'
I looked down at the bible. 'Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all the women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.'
'Yes,' said Betsie. 'Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we're packed so close, that many more will hear!' She looked at me expectantly. 'Corrie!'she prodded.
'Oh all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed, suffocating crowds.'
'Thank You,'Betsie went on serenely, 'for the fleas and for--'
The fleas! This was too much. 'Betsie, there's no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.'
'Give thanks in all circumstances,' she quoted. 'It doesn't say, 'in pleasant circumstances.' Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.'
And so we stood between the bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong."
Well, it wasn't until several days after, when Betsie had spent some time away from the cell being treated for an illness, that she explained to Corrie why the fleas were a blessing to them. (pg. 209)
"'You know we've never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room, (referring to Barracks 28).Well, I found out.'
One afternoon when there had been some confusion with the knitting group and they asked for a supervisor to come and settle it, Betsie announced that 'she wouldn't step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?'
Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice; 'Because of the fleas! That's what she said, 'That place is crawling with fleas!'
My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie's bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for."
Here's another such example. In Section 98 of the Doctrine and Covenants is a revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, in consequence of the persecution upon the saints in Missouri. It is natural that the saints in Missouri, having suffered physically and also having lost property, should feel an inclination toward retaliation and revenge. Therefore the Lord gave this revelation:
"VERILY I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks.
"Waiting patiently on the Lord, for your prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded with this seal and testament the Lord hath sworn and decreed that they shall be granted.
"Therefore, He giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good and to my name's glory, saith the Lord" (D&C 98:1-3).
We are reminded once again in D&C 59:7 -- "Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things."
Most of us will probably never experience the atrocities suffered by the Ten Boom sisters or the early Saints. However, do we quickly forget the Lord's admonition and cease to count our blessings when our daily problems seem to occur all too frequently?
How many of us get frustrated and impatient when we are forced to stop for 5 or 10 minutes because of road construction on Kamehameha Hwy? "Why does this have to happen to me?" e ask ourselves, or "I'm already late to my appointment. Will this construction ever finish?"
Well, I reacted that way all the time until my chiropractor in Kaneohe scheduled me for 3 visits a week for 12 consecutive weeks. I knew I had to find a way to endure those construction stops that occurred two or three times each way. As I stopped at each road block, I turned my head to the left and right of the highway and started noticing more than just the road construction. The wide angle lenses were on my soul and I saw how beautiful the scenery was on either side of Kamehameha Hwy. I wondered to myself, "How did I miss it all these years before?" I saw attractive houses and yards I had never noticed before. The ocean had its own personality and characteristics at different points along the Kam. Highway route. I even noticed the rock formations that seemed to change on a daily basis. And instead of envisioning a pontoon bridge right across Kahana Bay, I saw several hues of green and blue in its depths and on some days the surface was so still it was like a mirror was laying on the surface. It is a gorgeous bay!
The Koolau mountain range had so many ridges sculpted by years of erosion that it created a different appearance each time you viewed them depending on how the sunlight was hitting them at various times of the day. I even discovered a major landslide deep in the mountains of Kahana Valley that could only be viewed from a certain angle as I turned the corner from Crouching Lion. I began to gain a deeper appreciation for the wonders and beauty of the windward side of Oahu. I always knew Hawaii was beautiful but it wasn't until I had to stop at those many road blocks did I begin to develop a love and sense of humble gratitude for God's creation of these islands. I looked forward to my trips to Kaneohe because I was drinking in the beauty of this island from my saucer.
In his talk during a priesthood session, Elder Steven E. Snow counseled:
"Isn't it ironic, that we will often travel many miles to see the wonders of nature or the creations of man, but yet ignore the beauty in our own backyard?
"It is human nature, I suppose, to seek elsewhere for our happiness. Pursuit of career goals, wealth, and material rewards can cloud our perspective and often leads to a lack of appreciation for the bounteous blessings of our present circumstances.
"It is precarious to dwell on why we have not been given more. It is, however, beneficial and humbling to dwell on why we have been given so much.
"An old proverb states, "The greater wealth is contentment with a little."
This is such a basic and powerful truth -- "The greater wealth is contentment with a little." When we choose to live a simple life, we enlarge our capacity for simple pleasures. Our needs are few because our focus is not on us. A simple life gives us more time and more resources to serve others.
In her song, "Soak Up The Sun," Sheryl Crow's lyrics say "It's not getting what you want, but wanting what you get."
Using this as a premise, how many of you are thankful to the point of drinking from your saucers when it comes to your BYUH experience? Let's start with your dorm rooms, or your apartments. I'm sure that none of you have to live in the conditions that were described at Ravensbruck, so there should be many more obvious things to be thankful for.
Be thankful for the hot water that takes too long to run through the pipes on a cold morning, because it means you have a choice of water temperatures to bathe in.
Be thankful for the big pile of laundry in your room, because it means you can have clean sheets and towels to look forward to when you finally get around to doing the laundry.
Be thankful for loud, noisy roommates because it means you can hear just fine.
Be thankful for the $20, $10 or even $2 paychecks you get, because it means you're employed.
Be thankful for tired, aching muscles at the end of the work day, because it means you have been capable of working hard.
Be thankful for cafeteria food that doesn't taste as good as mom's cooking, because it means you didn't have to take the time to shop, prepare or cook it -- you only had to show up and eat it; it was there waiting for you.
Be thankful for the minimum wage job you have, because it means that you probably work on campus or at PCC and that's not too far from where you live.
Be thankful for the parking spot or bike rack far away from your class because it means you are capable of walking and have been blessed with transportation.
Be thankful for having an unreal amount of homework on the weekend, from a heartless professor, because it means you're attending BYUH and someone else's application was denied.
Just in case you're still not seeing your blessings too clearly--
Take a look now at these few pictures. Maybe your dorm room and apartment look like a condo now compared to where these soldiers had to sleep. And for those who can't find a single good thing about their job--aren't you grateful you don' have to work in these conditions? Have these photos helped you see your blessings more abundantly now?
Do you get the drift? For every negative you can think of in life, a thankful heart can always find a reason to offer gratitude in its place. Elder Watts cautions us "not to be drawn into the growing populous of ungrateful people who have become calloused to blessings as they bicker in misery."
A familiar hymn provides us with some wise counsel on how to increase our capacity to recognize blessings.
Hymn 241: Count Your Many Blessings
"When upon life's billow you are tempest-tossed, When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings; name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Are you ever burdened with a load of care?Ã‚ Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear? Count your many blessings; every doubt will fly, And you will be singing as the days go by.
When you look at others with their lands and gold, Think that Christ has promised you his wealth untold. Count your many blessings; money cannot buy Your reward in heaven nor your home on high.
So amid the conflict, whether great or small, Do not be discouraged; God is over all. Count your many blessings; angels will attend, Help and comfort give you to your journey's end.
Count your blessings; Name them one by one. Count your blessings; See what God hath done. Count your blessings; Name them one by one. Count your many blessings; See what God hath done.
As we list our blessings one by one, it will help us recognize God's influence in our life. When we replace sarcastic speech with encouragement, pessimistic thoughts with optimism and feelings of doom with hope, we will develop Christlike characteristics, such as humility and unselfishness to offset any tendencies to be prideful, selfish and unforgiving. Gratitude helps prepare us for exaltation.
In D&C 78:19 we are promised that the person "who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious." Pres. James E. Faust has said, "A grateful heart is the beginning of greatness." When only one of the ten healed lepers returned to thank the Savior, he provided an excellent example for us as to how we should acknowledge the source of all our blessings.
Author Melody Beattie wrote, "Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."
As we prepare for our annual Thanksgiving holiday next Thursday, and anticipate how we're going to stuff ourselves with food, so that we look just like a turkey, I hope that we all might seriously ponder the many, many people, things and circumstances we have to be truly thankful for. If you have trouble identifying your blessings, get on your knees and ask Heavenly to make them more visible to you. As you find ways to enlarge your spiritual maturity through increased gratitude of the Lord's influence in your life, I pray that you'll "keep drinking from [your] saucer, cause [your] cup has overflowed."
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Author unknown, "Drinking From My Saucer." Poem.
Corrie Ten Boom. The Hiding Place. Bantam Books, Inc. New York, NY, 1971. Pages 195, 198 - 199, 209.
Gordon T. Watts, "Gratitude." Ensign, Nov. 1998, 83.
James E. Faust, "Gratitude As a Saving Principle." Ensign, May 1990, 85.
"More Gratitude Give Me." Visiting Teaching Message, Ensign, July 1995, 70.
Steven E. Snow, "Gratitude." Ensign, Nov. 2001, 43.