The last advice I expected to hear from an older, wiser woman at Bible study: "I suggest you and your family get stoned!"
Whatthewhat? I couldn't believe I had heard my friend Barbie correctly. I know that some make the argument that since God created everything--including marijuana, opium and coca plants, he intends for us to freely use and enjoy drugs, but this is quite a theological stretch. (Though very creative, I might add).
My friend went on to explain that her recommendation has nothing to do with bongs, crack pipes, hallucinogenics, crystal meth, or even membership in NORML (National Organization for the Repeal of Marijuana Laws).
Barbie's method of getting stoned has to do with actual STONES. This is the brilliant idea she imparted to me: Since her children were young, the family has written prayer requests (a word or a brief sentence) on one side of a stone. If/when the prayer was answered, they wrote the date it was answered on the other side, and perhaps a word or two about how it was answered. These stones were placed in a decorative glass container and displayed in their home. As the years went by, their collection of rocks grew. The family could actually "see" answers to prayer piling up before their eyes.
These stones offered tangible remembrances of the ways God provided for Barbie's family. When each child departed for college, she sent them off with sheets, a backpack, laundry detergent, and a cell phone. But these blessed children also took their own jar, filled with stones collected over the years that were specific to them. When hard times came for these college students (and they did), when they had doubts about God's goodness (and they did), when they were tempted to give in to sin (and they were), they could review a message written on a family stone. This helped them remember that the God who answered prayer in a past situation is the same powerful and gracious God at work in their present situation.
This may be how my friend Barbie chose to remember God's faithfulness in her family's life, but the idea is as old as the Bible.
In Joshua Chapter 3, we learn that God miraculously stopped the flowing of the Jordan river so that the ark of the covenant, and then the entire nation of Israel could pass through. Joshua called together twelve men, one from each tribe, to take a rock from the river bed. Joshua explained: "In the future, when your children ask you, 'what do these stones mean?' Tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever."
The stones were placed at Gilgal as a memorial to remind the Israelites of God's miraculous ways, and also to help parents teach their children about God's power and his faithfulness to them. Sadly, we learn in Judges 2:8-10 that after Joshua died, within two generations, the Israelites forgot God's blessings. What were the consequences of the failure of fathers and mothers to teach their children about the Lord's faithfulness, power, might, and glory? They became a generation who did not know God.
The tragic result is that the Israelites became enmeshed in idolatry, materialism, immorality, and a lack of concern for the poor. Could history in danger of repeating itself in our 21st century American context? Have we forgotten God's grace and faithfulness and thus are lax about teaching our children important lessons about their spiritual heritage?
Gene Getz asks "What is happening in your home and mine? What will our children remember about us? Will they remember a beautiful home, big-screen television, video players, computer games, fast cars, a vacation home, a speedboat, an open-ended allowance—and all the frantic efforts we put forth to accumulate and keep these possessions? He goes on to write, ―Don‘t misunderstand….Material things…are not the issue. Our attitude toward them—and God—is! The children of Israel became materialists. They took the credit for their blessings. Eventually they turned away from God to false gods—the gods of a pagan society. And, in the process, they failed to teach their children their sacred history."
Our family was established on April 24, 1993, the day Jeff and I were married. Certainly, we have been witness to many answered prayers (although God did not always answer in our way or in our timing). We have seen God's provision, his power and his glory displayed on a continual basis. But I am sad to say that we can usually only recall a dozen or so answers to prayer--and even with these, the years they occurred are often fuzzy. I want to tell my children about how we have seen God work in our lives in amazing ways, if only I could remember more!
What happens when we fail to remember what God has done for us? As happened with the Israelites, when we forget God's goodness and his blessings, our faith falters. The cares of the world, the pressures we face, and the hardships we endure cause us to doubt God's love and His sovereignty in every detail of our lives.
Does displaying tangible evidence of God's work in our lives require a container of rocks? Of course not! It could be journals, markings on a tree in the yard, a picture collage, or many other things. But since stones were good enough for Joshua in the Bible, they're good enough for me.
So, we are going to start getting stoned. We will begin by remembering some major things God has done for us: the gift of each of our children, a job for Jeff when he was unemployed, a motivated buyer for a house we were desperate to sell, and my healing after suffering for years with mental illness and migraines. These stones will provide the foundation for our "stones of remembrance" jar. We plan to continue to add stones to the jar often, as God is constantly at work in our lives for our good and his glory. If only I will learn to be mindful and pay more attention!
These stones represent more than a trite storyline of "I asked for 'X' and God answered my prayer on 'X' date. They do not mean our family receives everything we think we want or need. They are not a substitute for instruction about complex topics like God's supremacy, man's responsibility, the meaning of suffering, or the power of prayer. But they will visually communicate:
*God's sovereignty over our lives
*God's power and his might
*God's ability to do over and above anything we could have hoped for or imagined
*Undeserved blessings and unmerited favor
*Our hope is in Christ
*God is worthy of our honor and praise
*Through the good and bad, the ups and downs, God is in control
*God's faithfulness through the seasons of our lives
*God's eternal plan includes our family
*God loves us and is on our side
What will become of these rocks? I want to pass them on to my children someday. No, I am not kidding! My daughters may prefer to inherit a cushy trust fund, real estate, and expensive antiques or jewelry. Maybe they will decide to sell the jar of rocks at a yard sale after I'm gone.
My desire is that they will keep these stones of remembrance and add to them with their families. Their material inheritance may be lacking or non-existent, but that's OK with me. I want Mika and Macy to know that God who provided for them in the past is the same God they can trust in both the present and the future. Let us always remember what God has done! Would you like to join our family in getting stoned?