Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Here I Raise my Ebenezer...

Then Samuel took a stone...and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying,
'Hitherto hath the Lord helped us' (1 Samuel 7:12)

A couple of days ago, I promised you a run-down on the pithy and poignant moments of the ward conference held in my husband's singles ward last Sunday. Today, I will do my best to deliver on that promise.

The handsome bishop (yes, I may be a bit prejudiced) opened by reading the words to one of his favorite hymns: "Come Thou Fount." He went on to explain the lyrical phrase, "Here I raise my Ebenezer." In the Old Testament, Samuel lifted up a stone to memorialize the Lord's help in preserving the Israelites when they were attacked by the Philistines. Ebenezer literally means "stone of help." My husband's suggestion was to ponder what stones (i.e. monuments to the Lord's help or Ebenezers) we might raise in our own lives to, as the song says, "lead us safely home" and "seal us for His courts above." (Stone of service, stone of obedience, etc.) Great food for thought.

The second counselor in the stake presidency used the game of golf as an analogy for life on earth, with all its traps and snares. Every player knows the rules and risks up front, yet he or she still chooses to participate. The way to succeed is clear and direct, with penalties for deviating from it. He went on to explain the rest of the obvious parallels, point out a few that were not so obvious, and then relate the sad tale of a man whose ball had been consigned to oblivion by a poorly executed swing. There it lay, far from the green and lost in tall, thick grasses. Quite a predicament in which to find oneself, our speaker observed, but then he added the thesis of his entire talk: "The important thing is what you do next." I know he made his point, because one of the young adults posted this very statement as her Facebook status that same afternoon.

The first counselor, a good friend from my home ward, gave an inspiring talk about finding and moving to higher ground. He shared a true story about the companion his son left behind when he returned home from his mission in Samoa. That young missionary was a Tongan, called to serve in a culture whose long history included enmity with his own. Based solely upon that history, he was not accepted by the Samoans, and their lack of trust was impacting his success in the missionfield. Thankfully, all of that changed one morning, due to a tidal wave that nearly engulfed the island. Not being familiar with the tidal wave drill (so to speak), the missionaries were slow to act. They were the last ones to respond to Samoan cries of warning...the last to take off running for higher ground. Realizing they were not going to make it there in time, the two were about to heed shouts from the villagers to "climb a tree," when they came upon three small children who'd been left behind in the frenzied rush to reach the nearby volcanic mountain and safety. At great risk to themselves, the missionaries swept the three children up and still managed somehow to climb a nearby tree. Seconds later, the tidal wave struck, and the Tongan missionary's legs were hit hard as he threw the last child upward to his companion and held on for dear life. Youth and strength prevailed, and a few moments passed. Finally, gathering all the courage they could muster (knowing full well the wave would return as it receded), the young men chose to leave the marginally secure safety of their tree and climb to higher ground. In neck-high water, carrying precious living cargo upon aching shoulders, they reached the top. There, they located a distraught young mother who was convinced she'd lost all of her children. Imagine the joy of being able to return them to her arms. Needless to say, the Tongan man had no more trouble in that Samoan village. And the lesson about heeding a warning to move to higher ground will never be forgotten.

Long post, so I'll save our stake president's true story (both personal and powerful) for another day.

=)

11 comments:

Jess said...

One of my favorite hymns too. Thank you for posting this- I really needed to read it today.

VK said...

Sounds like an uplifting Ward Conference. I'm anxious to hear their talks too, although I'll miss Bishop Anderson's.

jen said...

LOVE the Samoan story. I need that for FHE. Mind if I borrow?

Darlene said...

That sounds like a wonderful meeting. I just wish I could have been there to hear it all!

Momza said...

Thank you. I love that song. And I've always wondered what ebenezer was referring to...and wow...it fits so perfectly! Thanks Sue!

Amy said...

I really am in need of a spiritual pick me up, and as the doctor ordered, you came through. How is it you always know? Thank you.

karen said...

Good story and analogy. I am going to ponder that...

Lisalulu said...

great stories and "talk" advice. I'll have to file them away in my memory.

Ryan said...

That is the best hymn ever written.

Just ME the MOM said...

Ooohh! Great thoughts Sues! I have preserved them for future use, I think they are beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing!

Kristin

KC Mom said...

Wow! Can you load up all those guys and bring them out here to give their talks?!

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