“As I fall on my knees,
with my face to the rising Sun,
oh Lord have mercy on me”
Those words are some of many that still ring crisp and clear in the memories of my mind. Growing up my siblings and I, along with “the cousins” some 20 strong throughout the years, were fourth generation in that little white church on the hill. We were raised in the Lutheran church that so many of the generation before ours grew up in. My childhood is filled with memories of Sunday school picnics at the “black bridge” south of my hometown. There, all those who were called “Dad” or “Grandpa” would pitch horseshoes. Those called “Mom” or “Grandma” would see to it we were all fed like kings. A sea of delicious dishes, prepared with love and assurance, assurance their husband would have at least one thing there he loved. All joking aside it was as close to Heaven as a little five-year old boy with a hardy appetite could get, or so it certainly seemed at the time.
The kids would have three legged races, gunny sack races, and of course, the chance to play in the river. Keeping in mind, of course, there wasn’t a mother of that generation who would ever think to allow their child to go swimming for a minimum of one-half hour after stuffing their face.
Never was there a surprise Sunday mornings at the Peerless Lutheran Church, other than maybe the surprise of some family member visiting from out of town. Yes, Sunday mornings were, while growing up, what I refer to as the constants in my life. It was one day a week that the same faces would sit in the same seats and give you the same smiles and hugs. They would start with a familiar hymn, not the same hymn every Sunday, but a familiar one. Grandpa Arnold would wait at the back of the church for the piano to start playing, which by the way, for many years was played by my Grandma Millie, his wife, and as the music started he would ring the church bell and then walk to his seat. During the service there would be responsive readings, the reciting of the Apostles' Creed and the Lord's Prayer, Communion every Sunday, four or five hymns which were always done in four-part harmony.
I can remember Mom and Margie singing alto and Grandma usually singing soprano. Grandpa would sing, kind of like I find myself doing now, both tenor and baritone depending on the song. Two voices I will always remember are my dad's first cousins. Loren was the oldest of seven in his family, and had a bold and strong baritone voice. Often sitting right behind me, his voice would be heard above all the rest. The second was his younger brother, Wallace, whose tenor voice was always able to be picked out even sitting on the opposite side of the church. In the coming years I would find myself picking out my sisters, Chana, Colleen, and Wallace’s kids amidst the crowd. Each Sunday would end the same. On the last verse of the last song the pastor would walk the aisle to the back of the church. As the song ended, the congregation would file out, each one, young and old, shaking his hand.
I don't know about you but I sure do enjoy sitting down and looking back on memories like these and really count my blessings! To acknowledge that God has been actively working in my life from the very beginning.
In our reading for today, in Joshua chapter 4 the Israelites were told to build a memorial and to forever have a reminder of what the Lord had done for them that day.
5 “And Joshua said to them: Cross over before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, 6 That this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ 7 Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.”
In the book of Judges I find a recurring phrase;“And again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord…” This phrase is always followed by the same explanation, “because they remembered not The Lord and all He had done.”
When I am found to be facing a challenge in life, be it relational, occupational, financial, or any challenge at all, I have the opportunity in a split second to decide which path I allow my mind to take me down. I can start to make assumptions based on similar situations played out in the lives of those around me, or it could be that I have, in fact, encountered a similar situation that did not end well. These all lead me down the path to defeat and discouragement. OR I can be intentional to recall the times that what seemed to be against all odds, the powerful and gracious hand of God provided for me, protected me, or delivered me. I can recall testimony after testimony of God's absolute goodness displayed in my life as well as in the lives of somany people I know. I can recall the promises of God's Word and gain confidence and courage in what appears to be at the moment a very dismal situation.
Know the road you have traveled, and know the One who has traveled every step of it with you…
Know Jesus and make Jesus known