“The way a book is read — which is to say, the qualities a reader brings to a book — can have as much to do with its worth as anything the author puts into it…. Anyone who can read can learn how to read deeply and thus live more fully.”
~Norman Cousins

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I read from my scriptures (book), but you can find scripture reference here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A well of water - the Lord's living water Gen 21:19, 25

But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.John 4:14

In a recent trip to New Orleans  my husband and I took a ghost tour that guided us through much of the French Quarter. The tour guide shared animated stories of death and destruction, the necessary prerequisites for ghosts.  It turns out that one of our ghosts was the cause of the 1788 fire that destroyed nearly 80% of the city.

The story of  the New Orleans fire gave me reason for pause, for within this story comes the reason for the cities “well(s) of water.” But as it turns out New Orleans wells did not provide the promise of life or  protection from death that Spanish rule hoped they would. They in fact proved quite the opposite. 

As a prominent government leader and resident of the French Quarter Army Treasurer Don Vincente Jose Nunez had on a religious alter within a second story bedroom of his home, a large number of lit candles, and was prayerfully observing Good Friday when his servant called him to lunch. While downstairs the wind blew the curtains into the room full of candles causing fire to rapidly spread throughout the room.  Aware of the fire he ran 3 doors down to the church to sound the town fire bells. Within minutes the Cedar framed house hewn from the nearby swamps and used to construct almost all of New Orleans exploded. The resin that served to make cedar impervious to water also made it highly flammable.  The tragedy of the story is that the fire bells used to warn the town of just such a danger had been wrapped in silence in observation of Good Friday. With no warning and the match-light qualities of the homes, the fire consumed, within five hours, 856 of the 1100 structures.

To prevent such a catastrophic event from ever happening again, Spain decreed that all new structures must be built of brick, have iron railed balconies and courtyards that contained an inner well of water. So it is that every home within the reconstructed New Orleans had a well whereby water could be drawn for the use of cooking, drinking, bathing and most importantly putting out fire. 

The full tragedy of the fire comes not from the destruction of the town but in its rebirth. The twenty-eight years between 1789 and 1817 represented years of reconstruction. No one could have conceived that the wells of water that were placed to prevent death and destruction would prove to be the cause of the cities massive deaths. As stagnant bodies of water they  became the breeding grounds for mosquitoes, the transporter of Yellow Fever.  No records exist that allow the cataloging of death before 1817 but between the years of 1817-1905 more than "41,000 people died from the scourge of yellow fever in New Orleans." 

Not all wells of water bring life. Not all wells bring truth. As an Egyptian raised on the mighty Nile, Hagar knew the important relationship between water and life. Having been cast into the wilderness of the desert, Hagar believes what her life has taught her that without water she and her son will perish. 

Hagar stood but a short distance from a well of water that promised to save her and Ishmael and could not see it. What was Hagar's well of life? The water? Or was it her ability to hear and obey the voice of the Lord? What is it that helps us to see "the well of life" that God has provided for us? What is that we must do to help us open our eyes and find the truth that will not only fill our physical needs but also lead us into eternal life? 
The Lord had made a promise to her that her son would become "a nation." (21:18) Within the Lord's promise came the well of living water. Indeed the well of living water for Hagar was the covenant and promises that she and Ishmael had made with Lord when they partook of the Abrahamic covenant. Hagar's life was not spared by the existence of a well of water but by her faith in the Lord who directed her to "open her eyes" and see the well of water. 

Alone and forsaken Hagar could not see the promise of the Lord. Why? Why do most of us not see what God has promised us? In her most dire state Hagar was like most of us when life turns against us. She was angry and: 
         1. Separated (14) from all the family she had ever known.
         2. Grief stricken and left to wander in the wilderness (14).
         3. Without water (15) or food
         4. Alone (15) separated herself further from Ishmael
         5. Distraught and overwhelmed by her circumstances(16) waiting to die.
         6. Fearful (17).
         7. Given to prayer of desperation and weeping (16 & 17)

From the talk by Aileen H. Clyde I found these words about truth, living water, and Hagar. 

Consider the Savior’s image when he spoke of the necessity of discerning truth. He likens knowing the truth to receiving “living water”; that is, water that is fit to drink: pure, running water. He tells the woman at the well: “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water” (John 4:10). 
When I think of lifesaving water and of wells, I also think of Hagar (see Gen. 21:14–20). Hers is a complicated family story. She is forced alone into the wilderness of Beersheba with her young son, Ishmael. In due time the water and bread she has taken with her into the desert are consumed, and thirst and hunger overwhelm her and her little boy. Because she cannot bear to hear the cries of her son, the record tells us that she puts him in a shaded place and goes “a good way off” (Gen. 21:16). There, she lifts up her voice and weeps. In response, an angel of God speaks comfort to her and reminds her that she is not forsaken. Then, we are told, “God opened her eyes, and shesaw a well of water” (Gen. 21:19; emphasis added). We, like Hagar, are required to see “a well of water.” We, like the woman at the well, must ask of the Lord: “Give me this water, that I thirst not” (John 4:15). This is the purpose of Relief Society. It teaches us as daughters of God how to see and how to ask for that which we need of the Lord so that we need not thirst again. Remember the Prophet Joseph’s promise to us that through this society we “shall rejoice, and knowledge and intelligence shall flow.”

Hagar's life was saved and restored because of her faith in the Lord. The Lord offers each of us a well of living water. We can choose to drink of it and live. But water abounds in our life, how do we choose wisely which water will save us? How do we learn to know the living water of truth and let it be our guide?

The Spanish believed that the answer to their survival relied on the physical existence of water within a close proximity to danger.  They believed their source of water would alone aide in their survival. They could not see that their "water" had become their most imminent danger. Stagnant, separate, preserved, and unable to be cleansed, their wells served as breeding grounds for the mosquito and ironically their own death. 

Living water flows with life, action, and truth. It inspires and leads us to share and interact with one another. With each drink we are renewed and refreshed. It cannot be preserved but must be shared. Living water delivers us not only by offering our bodies its required need but by feeding our soul with its pure, clean principals. Hagar found living water when she prayed and wept unto the Lord. She again found living water when she opened her eyes to the promises that the Lord had made to her and Ishmael. Her living water filled her when she once again served herself and her son by returning unto him and sharing her knowledge not only of the well but of the angels message. She accepted the Lord's gift of love and allowed his promise to be fulfilled. Later the same well that served to save them from death becomes the means for their promised inheritance of Beersheba. Did Abraham know how this would work out when he turned Hagar and his son into the wilderness? I don't know.  But he had faith that the Lord would provide. He had faith that the Lord would keep his promise unto his seed that came through Ishmael.

This story portrays the difficulties that Hagar and Ishmael had to face before remembering the Lord's promise to them. Their life was hard. They faced challenges that at times seemed overwhelming, but when they remembered the gospel principals of prayer, obedience, service, etc. their life became filled with promise. In the 2008 General Conference Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge of the First Quorum of the Seventy spoke to the choice that we have when facing life's challenges. He says,

 The Lord’s way is not hard. Life is hard, not the gospel. "There is an opposition in all things," (2 Nephi 2:11.) everywhere, for everyone. Life is hard for all of us, but life is also simple. We have only two choices. (Moroni 7:15-17.) We can either follow the Lord and be endowed with His power and have peace, light, strength, knowledge, confidence, love, and joy, or we can go some other way, any other way, whatever other way, and go it alone—without His support, without His power, without guidance, in darkness, turmoil, doubt, grief, and despair. And I ask, which way is easier?
2008 October General Conference, The Way
In addition a talk entitled the Abundant Life helps us understand that our living water comes from the acceptance of the spiritual. Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve talks about some of the characteristics that will help us recognize the Lord's promise in our lives.

 Today, I want to list a few of the characteristics that the happiest people I know have in common. They are qualities that can transform ordinary existence into a life of excitement and abundance. First, they drink deeply of living waters. Do you seek peace of mind? Drink deeply of living waters. Do you seek forgiveness? Peace? Understanding? Joy? Drink deeply of living waters. The abundant life is a spiritual life. Too many sit at the banquet table of the gospel of Jesus Christ and merely nibble at the feast placed before them. They go through the motions-attending their meetings perhaps, glancing at scriptures, repeating familiar prayers-but their hearts are far away. If they are honest, they would admit to being more interested in the latest neighborhood rumors, stock market trends, and their favorite TV show than they are in the supernal wonders and sweet ministerings of the Holy Spirit. Do you wish to partake of this living water and experience that divine well springing up within you to everlasting life? Then be not afraid. Believe with all your hearts. Develop an unshakable faith in the Son of God. Let your hearts reach out in earnest prayer. Fill your minds with knowledge of Him. Forsake your weaknesses. Walk in holiness and harmony with the commandments. Drink deeply of the living waters of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
2006 April General Conference, The Abundant Life

As I think about water and its significance in our lives, I am filled with the idea that water alone is not enough to save us. In the town of New Orleans their stagnant water protected them from fire but invited an unseen death.  Hagar's ability to live depended not on drinking the water but on finding the water. The idea that God has made promises to me and that I must not despair but must drink daily of his living water through service, obedience, inspiration, joy, kindness, understanding, and through accepting all the blessings the gospel brings. When we partake of the Lord's covenants, his promise to us becomes our well of living water. And it flows within us. It cleanses us. It renews us and brings us Joy. 

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