Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Asked To Speak...

A few weeks ago, I was stuck inside the house with a sick baby girl; she was throwing up and had terrible diapers, the poor thing is just a featherweight to begin with, and I felt so bad watching her struggle.  The snuggles are abut the only good thing when it comes to having sick kids.  That particular day, I had cleaned up vomit multiple times and was snuggling with my little girl and I received a phone call from an unknown local number.  I didn't answer because I was in the middle of a mess.  Then they called again a couple of hours later; again, I deferred the call.  When my husband came home from work to save me, I told him I was going to go buy myself a new was almost my birthday, and it's tradition!  I may or may not have stopped by Sephora....While I was browsing, the unknown local number rang through again on my phone, and this time I answered.  It was the executive Stake Secretary asking me to come see a member of the Stake Presidency that night.  That night?  It was already almost 8pm.  I responded that I would and raced home to change.  

I stepped inside and looked point blank at my husband and asked him, "What do you know?!".   He was just as perplexed as I was when I told him about the call, and then he looked point blank at *me* and said, "What did you DO?!".  Ah, my husband, ever the comedian, always givin' me a hard time.  I love him anyway.

It turns out that I was given a speaking assignment for Stake Conference, which we had this past Sunday.  I was a little lot relieved that it wasn't a calling!  When the First Counselor mentioned to me that they as a presidency had had an impression that there was something I needed to say that the members of the Stake needed to hear, I will say this, there seemed to be a part of me that knew something my conscious self didn't know.  I don't know how else to explain it.  Not that I, in and of myself would ever feel the need to express myself to an entire STAKE, but something in my mind was saying, "Yes, Samantha, you do have something you need to say.".  And I had no idea what that was.  I certainly was not thinking anything grand and wonderful about myself, but there was a little bubble inside of me for a few months that I had supposed to be my own wandering thoughts, though now I recognize it as something else; the Spirit.

As I pondered about the topic for this talk, and worried about the part of the formal invitation-to-speak-letter that read, "...bring as few notes as required...", I thought I had a clear direction and I sat down to write one evening.  I think I must has spent a good hour at the computer trying to type things up and formulate them, and it just wasn't working.  Nothing was coming together, and I quickly realized that it was not what I needed to speak about.  I decided to keep thinking on it, and since I was working the next couple of days, that would give me some great opportunity to listen to General Conference talks on my drive in, about 45 minutes; listening to talks on my drive to work is my fave thing to do.  The talks on one particular morning seemed to jump out at me...and that little bubble inside of me swelled as I listened to them.  I knew what I needed to speak about, and I came home later that evening and typed it up in under an hour.  

I didn't do much revision, though I had over a week to comb through it; it was as it needed to be said.  The morning of conference our printer wouldn't print (printers are the bane of my existence, by the way), and my loving husband saved me from tears as he quickly loaded my talk onto his ipad.  Thank goodness for great husband's, eh?  I sat on the stand and when the opening hymn was sung, the hundreds of voices and faces all directed my way, it totally hit me...yikes!  I'm usually totally A-O-K with public speaking, but this was a bigger platform than anything I had experience with!  I had to sweat through the whole meeting, I was the last speaker before the Stake President!  But, I stood, and somewhere on my short walk to the pulpit, the spirit joined me and directed my mouth from that point on.  I remember little besides having locked knees.  So I thought I should share it, if only for posterity's sake, goodness knows I'm sure I'll never speak at another Stake Conference again!

Here it is:

Where is our priority?

As I’ve pondered this talk, many thoughts have passed through my mind.  So many beautiful hymns first flooded my mind, providing a testimonial prelude to the scriptures and talks that followed.  My mind finally rested on the subject of….priority.

Where is our priority these days?  These days in particular seem to abound with all kinds of preferential priorities and we have moved our God and our religion further and further down the queue of importance and priority in our lives. 

It has become increasingly easy, and, need I say, vastly popular to prioritize anything and everything above God and religion.  The world beckons to us through the radio, the television, the internet….those heinously popular social media sites; saying to us that anything is better than God.

And we have started to believe it.  Satan has found a hold to latch his deceptive fingers around.  He whispers that our time is more important than God.  He signals that our bank accounts are more important than God.  He calls to us that our politics are more important than God.  He cries that the philosophies of men are more important than God.  And he is shouting with a loud and thunderous voice that our immediate desires and instant ‘happiness’ are more important than God.

How many of us have placed these things above God?  If we have, then we do not know God.   We have forgotten our divine birth and inheritance.  We have lost sight of his eternal plan.  If we cannot place God first in our hearts and our homes, we have forgotten him.  In a few verses from one of my favorite Christian hymns:

 “How deep the Father’s love for us, How vast beyond all measure, That He should give His only Son To make a wretch His treasure. How great the pain of searing loss - The Father turns His face away, As wounds which mar the Chosen One Bring many sons to glory.”

The sacrifice the Father made for us in giving his only begotten Son, and the subsequent Atonement of Jesus Christ is a gift of which we are forever indebted to our maker.  He asks only for our hearts in return.

Can we give him this?  Can we give him priority in our lives?  In a world such as today, it is increasing easy to become swept away by the ferocious tide of deceptive politics.  Men and women alike cry with loud voices and empty promises that they can provide the idyllic utopia of an America society for us.  As human beings, we crave a savior of any kind and blindly follow where we are led…oftentimes to our own destruction.  Brothers and sisters, no political party will ever provide the perfection or substantial improvement we are seeking.  Only through applying Christ in hearts and lives and homes can we make enough of an impact to ever hope to change. 

In a talk by Mark E. Petersen in April 1972, he says: “It is past time to become realistic about our condition and to recognize that only through a return to God and his recently restored gospel can we ever achieve world happiness and peace…..We appeal to you:  Do not let prejudice blind you to the truth; open your heart to this new revelation from God; study it and learn to live by its principles.  We testify to you that it is indeed the way of life and salvation brought back to earth by God himself and by repeated angelic ministrations…”

Too often we prioritize the philosophies of men in our heads and hearts.  We love to latch on to key phrases that allow a person complete freedom with zero boundaries.  We do this under the guise of ‘happiness’, and also because when we tell someone that we just want them to be ‘happy’, the world will give us a kindly smile and pat on the back and some form of acceptance…something we are all desperately seeking.  It is easy to be a ‘yes’ man when they promise to give us a ‘like’ on facebook.  We have prioritized empty and unfulfilling catch-phrases over God.  It is only through truly and deeply seeking him in our hearts in those private, quite moments that we can find him.   For, you see, He is always there.  God is always available to us, we simply need to turn to Him instead of turning to those other sources that seem all too appealing in today’s world. God will provide us with the answers we seek in a very tumultuous world.  God will not lead us astray, he never has.  Perhaps we can look at the Book of Mormon, just in 1st Nephi, alone…we see multiple times when Laman and Lemuel were stirred up in anger against their brother Nephi, only to be humbled by the work of the Lord….at least until they forgot again.  Do not be like Laman and Lemual, brothers and sisters; dragging your feet on your journey because you feel you left the best of everything behind you in Jerusalem.  Do not be fooled by the glittery gold and precious things…the philosophical rhetoric and laissez-faire idealism the world treasures.   These things will not provide you with the lasting and eternal happiness your eternal spirit craves.  God has provided us way, a Savior, a light in the dark world, a prince of peace, a cousellor….a brother. 

In many ways, we seem to prioritize one thing above God more than anything else; more than politics, or money, more than philosophy….we seem to prioritize our own grief and pain of our wounded hearts.  I need not guess at the number of grieving hearts out there today.  The number is vast.  Some are here today grieving with addiction, some are grieving with loss, some are grieving with hurt and anger, some are grieving from abuse.  The list is innumerable.  I remember a time in my life when I was grieving the loss my father…though he had not died yet.  His was a long and painful death, over the course of a year.  The anguish in my soul most days was suffocating.  There were many nights when I would, through my tears, barely be able to mutter in prayer, “Father, please help me!”.  I relate this account to you not because I wish to contend with anyone else’s grief, but because I am ashamed that I was so consumed in my own grief and despair, I forgot to let it go.  I had forgotten God and what he could do for me.  I had forgotten that he and only he could transform my deepest pain and give me the peace and comfort my soul was gasping for.  I had prioritized my pain above God.  Brothers and Sisters, this is the most painful path we could choose.   We can find rest in Him, if we let go.  We can find peace, if we let go.  We can find comfort, if can let go, and turn it over to God. 

Years ago, I had a bright wake up call from a rather unexpected source, and animated movie.  (Little kids, see if you can guess).  This particular movie was about a little orange fish, named Nemo.  In the movie, the fish’s Father, Marlin, is desperately and rather frantically searching the ocean for his son, with a rather comical and somewhat forgetful blue fish, Dory.  In one particular scene, Marlin and Dory are trapped in a whale’s mouth for quite some time.  Marlin has exhausted himself by throwing his body against the whale’s mouth in hopes of getting out.  Dory, appears to be unphased and rather enjoying the ride.  When the water begins to drain in the whales mouth, Marlin again becomes frantic even though Dory is calmingly reassuring him that in order to get out, they need to swim to the whales throat.  In a moment, the whales tongue flips up and Marlin is left hanging precriously onto a single taste-bud with one fin, while hanging on to Dory with the other.  Dory then says “He says it’s time to let go!  Everything’s gonna be ok!!”.  Marlin responds with “How do you know?!  How do you know something bad isn’t gonna happen?!”…and then the answer from Dory “I don’t!”.

In that moment, Marlin realizes he has no choice.  He has to let go.  There is no other way.  The dark pit below that will surely swallow him up and consume him, is all that is left.  Marlin….let’s go.  In that moment, he and Dory and are expelled through the whale’s blowhole into the air, and fall into the ocean, which is where they wanted to be in the first place.

I tell you this story, because many times I have been hanging onto my pain for dear life, just like Marlin.  I have fought to keep it because it was mine and it was familiar and it was all I had left that I knew.  And the unknown below me…I just couldn’t let go.  I didn’t trust God.  I implore each one of you, to let go of that pain that you hold so dearly to your heart.  That anger, that loss, that abuse, that addiction, whatever it may be…trust in God, prioritize him, and turn it over, once and for all to Him who can heal and provide for you.  He will provide a balm for your wounds like no other, not even FB can provide that. 

It is my promise that each and every one of us can find truth, wisdom, direction, guidance, and healing through our Heavenly Father.  He has not left us alone and we can call upon him no matter how seemingly small our trials appear to be.  Heavenly Father should be the priority in our hearts and homes and our lives, not in concept, but in application.  If we apply his teachings and principles, we can change our hearts, we can change our homes, we can change our wards, our communities, our schools, our country.  We simply need to make him a priority.

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