Joshua 4:5-7 records God's commandment to each of the Israelite men to get one stone and carry it on his shoulders to set a place and together, as a nation, build a memorial that would be for all future generations of their people.
Each family would have a part in this memorial, as each one was to contribute a rock. This erection was to become a memory stone (or memory jogger) telling about the time that the waters of the Jordan River were cut off so that the men carrying the ark of the covenant could cross the river without any mishaps.
This was an important event in the lives of the Israelites and God wanted them to remember he could do anything needed to make life easier for his children.
He didn't want this particular miracle to be shared by just one generation, but he wanted all future generations to share in the moment.
The only real heritages we leave our children are the memories we leave behind. Every day we add color patterns to the pictures in the minds of our children. If they are vivid enough, or often enough, or unique enough, they become memories.
Fortunately good impressions are more lasting than bad, since the brain has the ability to suppress the unpleasant.
Noah and Abraham built alters at important times in their lives. Isaac was known for digging wells. Jacob built a pillar at Bethel, which he revisited when he was troubled. All were intended to preserve events in people's memory.
In the story in Joshua 4, Joshua is building a memorial from a pile of rocks that he wants to be so special, so out of the ordinary, that the children in generation to come will ask "Why?"
He wanted the people to always remember what God had done here for his people. He knew that memories are powerful enough that they can shape a life. He knew that what he passed on as a memory would be enjoyed around many tables in the future.
Memories also have a stabilizing effect and give us a sense that there is some order to what is happening. This is especially important today when everything seems to be changing so quickly.
Memories are built around the good times and the special times a family spends together. The reason for the anticipation and the setting may be as important as the event itself. If you make special plans for a camping trip, but you are rushed or uptight with each other, you may spoil what could be a precious gift.
Some of the greatest memories are based upon the simple things of life, the things that cost no money. They are built upon the times we take -- time to walk and talk to each other. They are based upon the time we take to share a campfire and read together orally.
Develop feelings of closeness and belonging. Make sure you are sharing the interesting and exciting experiences, for these lead to closeness.
Develop relationships based upon mutual love, respect, confidence and trust. Speak to your child as you would a friend, more importantly, listen.
Take time to talk to children. Do things together. Worship God, read God's word and pray together.
Pass on a memorial built from one special memory rock at a time, and it will be shared around the table for many years to come.
Stuart Churchill is the pastor of the Kenai United Pentecostal Church at Mile 16.5 of the Kenai Spur Highway. Church services are at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays and 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sundays.
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