[with thanks to Darrell S.]
Long, long ago in a different century, on another continent, I attended a Sunday School class on Joshua 4.
After 400 years of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites were miraculously rescued by God. Following a painful 40-year detour through the wilderness, they finally came in sight of the Promised Land, at the edge of the Jordan River which was flowing high at flood stage.
There God did another miracle for them. When the feet of the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant dipped into the water, the water coming downstream stopped flowing. “All of Israel crossed over on dry ground until the entire nation was on the other side.”
Then God told Joshua to select one person from each tribe to take a stone from the middle of the riverbed and bring it to the shore. Later, Joshua set the stones in Gilgal as a memorial to what God had done for them at the Jordan.
To illustrate this lesson, the teacher asked us to consider one way God had been faithful to us. Then he gave us stone-shaped pieces of construction paper on which to write what God had done. That orange oval has served as a bookmark in my Bible ever since, a continual reminder of God’s work in my life.
In a similar way, Jack and I started a prayer journal early in our marriage. We wrote down our requests and went back from time to time to see how God had responded to them. Although we always found it helpful to be reminded of God’s faithfulness, our entries were very sporadic [I think once we went five or six years without writing in it]. It was easy to forget about the journal on the bookshelf, especially since we have more than one bookshelf in our house. Out of sight, out of mind.
But the paper stone in my Bible gave me an idea. Like the Israelites, we could collect stones–small ones, that is–for each item of thanks that we listed in our prayer journal. We could put them in a glass jar that could be left out in plain view. Every day we would see it and remember what God had done for us. So I bought a set of jars, and we started filling them.**
Putting stones in the jar became our New Year’s tradition, and over the years we expanded it to include our growing family circle. After we review the praises and requests we shared the year before, we take turns sharing what God has done over the last year, and what we are concerned about for the coming year. Some years we’ve been able to do this together sitting around the fire, other years we share on Skype or via a round-robin email.
Our stone jars are pretty full now and more often than not, instead of adding new stones, we just list the items in the journal and then send out the entire list to every family member.
This year one of my stones will be for the publication of Walk with Me: Pilgrim’s Progress for Married Couples.
For a writer, having work published is always something to celebrate. But getting this book published was almost as miraculous as God stopping the Jordan River so the Israelites could go into the Promised Land. I wrote the story ten years ago for our daughters. I hoped it might have a bigger audience than two people, but from my years spent working in publishing I knew that an allegory would be a long shot.
As much as I wanted to encourage others with the book, I didn’t think I could find a publisher–unless my last name was Graham or Lucado or Warren or Lewis… So I tucked the manuscript away and moved on to other writing projects. But then last year Jack mentioned it to Bob who mentioned it to Deb. Suddenly, I was watching a miracle happen.
What about you? What acts of faithfulness has God done for you this past year, both big and small?
Is there a concrete way you can mark them for remembering in the days ahead?
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…
These stones are to be a memorial
to the people of Israel forever.
**Many years later, living in another country broke two jars in a set of four. Even if I had been in the states, I wouldn’t have hoped of finding replacements . So I went off shopping to find some other jars, thinking I would never find ones that looked as nice. Then lo and behold, [as an angel would say], I found an *identical* set in a gift shop here.
[edited from the archives]