Memorial Stones

Memorial Day

Some movies stay with you forever. Schindler’s List is one of those movies for me. And the emotional pull did not stop when the closing credits ran. The movie ended with the various actors, paired with their real-life counterparts, filing past Oskar Schindler’s actual burial site. Each person stopped to leave a stone of remembrance on the grave.

The practice of using memorial stones goes way back to biblical times. In the book of Joshua (4:20-22 ESV), we read:

“And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. And he said to the people of Israel, ‘When your children ask their fathers in times to come, “What do these stones mean?” then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’”

Today, many continue to follow the Jewish custom of leaving small stones at a loved one’s grave site to show the deceased is remembered.

All cultures have traditions of remembrance. It might be the setting of an annual holiday or a practice of exchanging gifts. Some cultures remember the past by re-enacting historical events or dressing in period garb.

This month, Americans celebrate Memorial Day. “Celebrate” might not be the best word to describe this holiday, though, because it’s a day set aside to remember those who died in the various branches of the armed forces. Sadly today, the day is more associated with the unofficial beginning of summer than it is for the memorializing of those who gave their lives for their country.

Christians also have traditions of remembrance. We celebrate annual holidays such as Christmas and Easter. We also celebrate a regular practice of sharing in Communion, also called The Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist. By sharing in Communion, we fulfill Jesus’ command to “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19 NIV).

So what are we remembering? Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 ESV).

We’re remembering Christ’s sacrifice for us 2,000 years ago. And we’re remembering His promise to return someday. Every time we celebrate communion, we look back and we look ahead.

This Memorial Day, look back in honor of those who gave their lives in defense of our nation, and look ahead in gratitude for the life they protected.

And the next time you celebrate Communion, do the same: look back in honor of the One who died for you, and look ahead to the day He will return for you.

We don’t always need stones of remembrance, but we do need to remember.

How will you spend Memorial Day this year?


 
Aging Gracefully . . . and Biblically

Aging Gracefully

Is it possible to age gracefully? What does that even mean?

Been thinking recently about aging. It may have something to do with the fact that I’ve reached another milestone birthday. In a culture that worships youth, I wonder how long it will be before I become a living relic of a bygone era—someone merely tolerated by younger people. Then I wonder if the future is now.

It doesn’t help that I find myself saying many of the things that once caused me to roll my eyes when my mother said them decades ago. Things I had determined never to repeat. Sigh. Never say never!

I’ve known people who have modeled what it is to not age with grace. Many had health issues and painful life experiences. Their response was to grow more cranky and unhappy with each passing year.

I’ve also had some wonderful role models who exemplified how to age with grace. People who determined their circumstances would not drag them down. Instead, they kept looking up. Up toward heaven. Toward their Savior. Toward the gift of each new day, despite their difficulties. And I hope I’ve learned something from each of them.

The pages of the Bible are also filled with positive role models—people who aged gracefully. Here are 6 people I want to be like when I grow up!

  • Enoch

Enoch’s secret to aging gracefully was to “walk with God” (Genesis 5:22, 24). I love the word picture of walking with God. To walk with someone means you don’t run ahead and you don’t lag behind. That’s how I want to live: walking with God.

  • Moses

Age is not an obstacle to God’s call on our life. Moses was 80 years old when God called him to lead ancient Israel out of Egyptian slavery. What an encouragement it is to know that regardless of what the calendar says, God can still use me. We also read that Moses was more humble than anyone else (Numbers 12:3). Hmmm…availability and humility: a combination I need to cultivate!

  • Caleb

Caleb was one of the 12 spies sent by Moses to spy out the promised land and bring back a report. He stood with Joshua when the other 10 spies sowed seeds of doubt among the people. Forty-five years later, at the mature age of 85, Caleb requested a portion of the land that would be especially difficult to conquer—a land of “fortified cities” (Joshua 14:12). He was successful because he “followed the Lord God of Israel fully” (Joshua 14:14). Someone willing to stand against the crowd who follows God fully: that’s who I want to grow up to be!

  • Elizabeth

Elizabeth was the wife of a priest. She was unable to conceive, a disgrace among women at that time. But despite her disappointment and her advanced age (Luke 1:6-7), she was described as righteous in God’s sight. And God chose her to be the mother of the one who would herald the coming of Christ. What a woman! I want to age gracefully like Elizabeth—someone who trusts God despite the disappointments of life.

  • Simeon

Although we’re not told Simeon’s age, it appears he was an older man. We can conclude this because the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die before he had seen the Christ (Luke 2:26). He was then content to leave this life, having seen the One who had been promised. I very much want to be like Simeon. Someone who is sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and follows His leading.

  • Anna

At 84 years old, Anna had been widowed for an estimated 60+ years. She spent her life serving and worshipping at the Temple “night and day” with fasting and prayer. When she heard Simeon’s pronouncement, she thanked God and spread the word to all who would listen that the Messiah had been born (Luke 2:38). I want to be like Anna as I age: someone who lives to serve and worship. Someone who lives with an attitude of gratitude. And someone who can’t stop talking about Jesus.

As the calendar pages turn and birthdays come and go, who are your role models for aging gracefully?

 


 
Easter Sunday is Coming!

The clichés abound. Life is a process. Life is a journey. Life is a highway.

Life is each of these and more. But as we move through the processes, in our journeys, and on the highways, what are we doing during these times? Especially during the times of waiting? Or times of pain? Or discouragement?

Easter

During this week leading up to Easter, I’m reminded of Jesus’ disciples. How optimistic they must have been after Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. They had invested more than three years of their lives to follow Him, live with Him, and learn from Him. They had seen the most amazing things: water made into wine, people healed, demons exorcised, the dead brought back to life. Who, but God, could do such marvelous things?

Yet on that Thursday night, they spiraled down from expectancy to hopelessness. They stood in shock as Jesus – the source of all their hopes – was dragged away by armed guards. With their expectations dashed, they slunk off into the darkness, confused, discouraged, even despairing.

When they thought things couldn’t get any worse, the next day the Romans executed Jesus in the most torturous and degrading manner possible. Overcome by fear and ashamed of their own cowardice, the disciples hid. Of the twelve disciples, only one was among those at the foot of the cross.

Saturday was a nebulous day. A day which they probably passed through on auto-pilot. What would they do next? After three years of following this Teacher, would they return to their old lives? Would they even have lives to return to?

Then came Sunday. Even with the report of Jesus’ victorious resurrection, they hesitated. Afraid to hope the circumstances of the past several days were not the end. Afraid to believe Jesus was indeed the long-awaited Messiah. Afraid to step out of the shadows into the light.

What about you? Is your life caught in Thursday? Are you dealing with the initial shock and despair of dashed hopes?

Perhaps you’re trapped in Friday, where your dreams have not only been dashed, they’ve been buried, too.

Or are you stalled in the waiting room of Saturday? Having to let go of the past, but not sure of the future?

Wherever you are, Easter Sunday is coming! By the grace of God, faith in Christ, and the power of His Holy Spirit, you can step out…

…from condemnation to restoration.

…from darkness to light.

…from resentment to forgiveness.

…from hopelessness to hope.

…from death to life.

Be encouraged. Sunday’s on the way!”


 
Mate for Life

I never thought a sandhill crane would make me cry.

A pair of sandhill cranes were living in our little corner of the neighborhood for the last year. It seems fitting, since they happen to be the logo of our development.

We’ve watched them establish a routine. Foraging for food. Teasing our dogs by remaining just outside the boundary of the invisible fence that corrals our two eager boxers. Proclaiming, quite loudly, that they were large and in charge.

And always together. Until now.

For the past week, we’ve only seen one. One by himself (herself?) searching for food. And looking ever so lonely. I find myself hoping against hope that he’s alone because his mate is nesting somewhere in the area. Wishing that she’ll accompany him again a month from now with two newly hatched chicks. Mate for Life

Because, you see, sandhill cranes are one of those breeds that mate for life. And life for them is usually longer than 20 years. They mate when they’re about 2 years old, and spend the next 20-30 years nesting, raising chicks, and watching them leave to start their own families.

A circle of life. The rhythm of nature.

It makes me appreciate the lifetime I’ve had with my own husband. Seasons and decades. Experiences that have been good, bad, and occasionally so ugly the only thing you can do is stifle a gag reflex. Otherwise known as life.

There’s something special about sharing all those things across decades with one person. With someone who knows you, sometimes better than you know yourself. Someone who gets your quirks, overlooks your faults, and loves you anyway.

Someone who understands what real love is. Not just the hearts-and-flowers kind of love celebrated once a year on Valentine’s Day. But a love that’s in it for the duration. A love that puts the other person’s needs and desires ahead of your own. And a love that never lets go.

I’m grateful for that kind of love. For the “mate for a lifetime” commitment. I know that not everyone has the opportunity for that experience, and I don’t take it for granted.

So here’s my challenge…
Valentine’s Day has passed, but don’t wait another 12 months to show your love. While hearts and flowers are nice, consider other ways to communicate the deep joy and privilege of doing life together.

Identify a task the other person is responsible for, and surprise him or her by taking care of it. Do something together to get out of your rut. It doesn’t have to be dinner at a fancy restaurant (although that’s always nice!). Perhaps a spontaneous neighborhood walk after dinner. Or maybe sharing, without jokes or teasing, how much he or she means to you. Hold hands. Lock eyes with a smile. Bite your tongue when he leaves his clothes on the floor (again!). Or when she tells you (for the 20th time!) to pick up your clothes.

Expressing love—real love—isn’t easy to do day in and day out. We’re selfish by nature. We want our marriage and our world to revolve around us, not around the other person. And we want it now.

Christians know that to maintain this kind of deep, unselfish, humble love requires the supernatural equipping of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who encourages, prompts, and gives us the desire to love our spouse the way we want to be loved. 

And if you need additional motivation, consider my lonely sandhill crane. Don’t wait till it’s too late to say—and show—your love.

You won’t be sorry!

 

 


 
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