Sunday, April 11, 2010

Stake Conference

This is Stake Conference weekend. Stake Conference and us, well, we don’t have a great track record. We never get there early enough for soft seats and there’s something about sitting in the overflow area of the Cultural Hall that brings out the (extra) worse in my kids. And really, from the sound of it, I should say Everyone’s kids. In the past I’ve vowed to attempt it but time after time it’s been a disaster. Is it the two hours in hard seats? Is it sitting in the Cultural Hall, surrounded by a different mix of vaguely familiar people? I don’t know but it’s never good.

I decided to give the dress I bought for Corrina’s wedding a test run this morning and darned if it wasn’t meant for sitting. At all. By the time we walked into church I looked like I’d pulled the dress out of the laundry bin. Lands’ End is going to be hearing from me tomorrow.

So obviously we were not in the comfortable seats but we also weren’t in the very back of the overflow area. We had a view of the big screen and a side television as well. Note to self: If ever you find yourself in the Stake Choir (ha ha ha!!!) never sit under or next to the plaque displaying hymn numbers. I don’t know who that gal was right underneath it but the poor thing had the camera square on her the whole two hours. I’d never be able to sit as calm and cool as she did. I know I would forget the camera long enough to yawn, roll my eyes, whisper something to the person next to me, or develop and uncontrollable itch. This woman was like a ninja! So cool and composed.

One of the speakers today was Jessica Warren. I don’t know how old she is but I know she’s in high school. I was impressed with her composure and her ability to keep our attention. She told us that she and her family (large family; she’s one of seven girls) enjoy movie night together and one of their favorites is “Evan Almighty”. Now I have to admit I’ve never seen it (as much as I enjoy “The Office”, I can only take Steve Carell in small doses) but apparently it’s about a guy who’s asked by God, just like Noah was, to build an ark (although didn’t the rainbow signify God’s promise to never flood the earth again? Well anyway . . .). Jessica said that in her home they’ve placed these wooden letters in their living room: ARK. In the movie it’s pointed out that it stands for Acts of Random Kindness. I’m probably totally screwing up what she was trying to say but I think she was saying that we can all build our little arks. We do what we can for others. Boys, open that door for the girls. She mentioned her friends calling to check up on her from school when she was home sick. Not the big gestures necessarily but the little everyday things that we can do to build each other up. To let people know they have real value. The collective power of little arks can change lives.

There was a focus on repentance today. Specifically, coming unto Christ through repentance. One of Satan’s favorite tools is encouraging us to feel less than. Not worthy of the blessing God would bestow on us. I remember President Belnap telling us that we’re all to come unto Christ. That there was no group he singled out as not fitting the bill. He quoted 2 Nephi 26:33:

“For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”

This is, of course, Awesome. It reminded me of the $20 bill story that has been repeated in different places by different people. Here’s a version Michael found on www.ldscompanion.com:

“A well known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, “Who would like this $20 bill?” Hands started going up. He said, “I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this." He proceeded to crumple the dollar bill up.

He then asked, "Who still wants it?" Still the hands were up in the air. "Well," he replied, "what if I do this?" And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty. "Now who still wants it?" Still the hands went into the air.

"My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20.”

Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless.

But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value in God's eyes. To Him, dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to Him. The worth of our lives comes not in what we do or who we know but by who we are!

I absolutely love this analogy. It’s something we can all understand. Sure, we might prefer an uncirculated, crisp $20 but we also know it’s not worth anymore than one that’s been through the wringer. Doesn’t it make you look at people differently? That value is there.

Sometimes I leave things like this feeling sort of overwhelmed. The whole Matthew 5:48 thing can feel like a brick wall in front of my face (“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”). I think I read somewhere that there are maybe seventeen different Greek words we translate into English as ‘perfect’, ‘perfection’, ‘perfectly’. That gives me hope that maybe it’s a little more nuanced than my vision of Perfect but anyway, last night at the adult session, President Pulsipher left us with these words that gave me comfort: “We're never going to be perfect but we need to be consistent with our efforts.” I think I can legitimately strive for ‘consistent’.

It was a Conference Miracle folks. We made it through all two hours with all five kids. Maybe consistent effort does pay off.

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