I want to share with you the importance of building family memories. Christian people ought to excel in building family memories as we can have wonderful times together. My grandma Hendren used to buy orange sherbet just for me caused she loved me. Although that was 55 years ago, I still remember. I remember a few lovely days of vacation in Colombia with my family on a beautiful white beach called Playa Blanca. I remember visiting lighthouses with my wife in Maine on our 30th wedding anniversary trip. And I have spiritual memories as well. Times when the goodness of God overwhelmed us.
I wonder today:
- Can you remember a day from your childhood, or a day with your brother or sister, or a day with your kids or grandkids that just seems special?
- Can you remember a spiritual time when God came through for you?
Sometimes the best antidote to stress and feeling overwhelmed is to simply think about the good things and the good times that you have had in life. The old hymnwriter said:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
What the songwriter is saying is that we need to activate our memory. And not just fun times together-don’t get me wrong-they are precious. But sometimes memories of how God brought you the tough times of life can cause you to have faith in the present. We need to remember all that God has done for us.
My goal is to tell you that over the next several years or until Jesus returns, is to remind you that you have an opportunity. That opportunity is to create an environment around you where your family will amazing memories of you, and your time with them. You have an opportunity to remind your family of God’s grace and God’s power in your life…to hand the next generation a baton of faith, the stories of faith that run in your family.
Here are some suggestions for building family memories:
Recognize that building family memories is God’s idea!
God knows our inability to remember things. It is easy to forget. I have always loved the story way back in the book of Joshua. The children of Israel had come to the promised land, they had sent in spies. The spies came back with a negative report and that report caused unbelief to infiltrate the camp. That story is amazing because just a short time before -their God had caused Egypt to crumble under his mighty hand.
- God had divided the Red Sea.
- God had drowned Pharaoh’s armies.
- God had shown his presence in smoke and fire on Mount Sinai
- God had given the ten commandments to Moses.
- God had won the victory for them.
What happened? They forgot! Just a few months after leaving Egypt all they saw was giants and walled cities. They forgot who their God was. The same people who had danced with Miriam and her tambourine after crossing the Red Sea on dry ground, the same people who had left with all the riches of Egypt, and who had seen God’s power were now trembling in fear. Why? Because they forgot. They forgot that God was a God of power. They thought they had to do it all. They thought if we are going to fight, it is by our natural strength.
And the result was that the whole nation had to return to the wilderness. They wandered for forty years in the desert. Moses dies, that unbelieving generation dies. And now here in Joshua 4, they have come once again to the Jordan River. It is at flood stage. And Joshua knows what God is going to do. He knows God is going to divide the swollen Jordan just like Moses did the Red Sea.
But Joshua doesn’t want the people to forget. He wants for them to remember what God was going to do on that day. He wants the succeeding generations to remember who God is and what He has done.
Joshua knows the tendency of humanity to forget. Joshua decides to make a monument. He decides that 12 men will carry 12 stones out of the Jordan and put them in a pile.
Joshua 4:5-7 “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?’ 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.”
What was Joshua saying? He was saying that memories are important. Especially spiritual memories. Memories of God’s touch. Memories of God defeating the enemy. Memories of miracles. Generations later, young men and women would say. What do these stones mean? And the elders and the older generation would say, “This is so you remember how powerful your God is. Your God and my God divided the Jordan. Your God divided the Red Sea.” It was to be a memorial to Israel forever. Every stone laid was building family memories for the Children of Israel.
That is wonderful Old Testament stuff. The New Testament tells us to remember. When we partake of communion. We are to remember what God has done for us. Luke 22:19 “And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
We are to remember what Jesus did for us on the cross. We are to remember how Jesus changed our life. We are to remember his grace and his love and his mercy. He has forgiven me. He has cleansed me. He has changed my life.
I want to say, that your story is important. The story of your grandparent’s faith is important. The story of your uncles’ conversion is important.
If you are going to build memories into your family. I challenge you today to lay first the foundation of memories of how God came in. It is all right to just say, I am grateful today for all he has done for me.
Weave the stories into your life. When you sit around the table, when you are in the car, when you are talking about life. Put Jesus in the midst of the conversation! It is okay to say your testimony! That is your story. Maybe he kept you from deep sin. If so, tell it to your kids and grandkids. Maybe he rescued you from addiction or poverty or hopelessness. Tell it to your children. Maybe you had a financial need and you prayed and you found a check in the mail. Tell it to your children.
Psalms 145:4 “One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts.”
Memories are powerful. And we need to be reminded. Our kids need to be reminded. Our grandkids need to hear it. Part of my story is that God healed my son Derek of stuttering. You have heard Jureen, my wife tell of how God released her in a moment of difficulty and depression. Those are just some of my stories. What are your stories? Tell them.
- Ask God to give you and your family powerful spiritual stories
Some of the greatest memories I have in life are sitting around the table at my Mother and Father in laws house and they would tell the stories of how God had blessed. Bennie, my Father in Law would share pieces of his testimony. He would tell how that he tithed and that most of the people down at Fred’s café would laugh at him, they would poke fun at him. But there came a day when a tragic hail storm came to the area right through Worthington. Most of the farmers in Nobles had a complete loss that year. But not Bennie Gerdes, apparently you could see where the hail destroyed the neighbors crop, and that somehow right at the fence line Bennies crop was spared. His farm is right on the way in to town from the West. They said, Bennie how did you pull that one off? Bennie said I pay my tithes and God has my back.
Sitting around the table there were also stories of hunting and fishing and laughter and motorcycles, but inevitably the story would turn to what God has done. I dare you to have enough courage to ask for stories in your family line.
It is wonderful to know what God did for brother so and so. You can tell Reinhard Bonkke’s stories and your pastors stories. But I am telling you that you need stories for your family. James 4:2 “Yet you do not have because you do not ask.”
Ask God for stories. But I want you to beware of something. Stories come from trials, testings, struggles, sometimes even heartaches. The truth is everyone us have those things in our lives. Listen, every time a test comes. Every time a sickness comes. Every time a heartache or loss makes its way. Turn to God. Ask God to take that story and turn it around and make it something that can be passed from one generation to another.
- Take your test and ask God to turn it into a testimony.
- Take your trial and ask God to turn it into a triumph for Jesus sake.
- Take your heartache and ask God to turn it into a heart-felt praise.
Have you ever read the book of beginnings? The book of Genesis? It is the story of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. It is the story of God moving in a family line. It is a story of triumphs and tradgedys, and weaknesses. But you see God in it. Listen, doesn’t the word tell us in Romans 2:11 “For there is no partiality with God.” What God did for others, he will do for you. Ask for stories.
If your family is Christian, ask grandpa and grandma and others to tell what God has done.
- Realize that building family memories will cost you time and effort
I know that I have focused mainly on spiritual memories. But those spiritual memories are most powerful when they are intertwined with hundreds of positive family moments.
In the book of Job, Job is lamenting and wishing he could go back in time. This is what he says.
“Just as I was in the days of my prime,
When the friendly counsel of God was over my tent;
5 When the Almighty was yet with me,
When my children were around me;
6 When my steps were bathed with [a]cream,
And the rock poured out rivers of oil for me!”
Job had enough sensitivity to recognize the moment. When my children were around me. Those moments of blessing, when God is with us and the family is together. Here is the hard part, Job couldn’t go back and you can’t either. But you can make the most of this moment. It doesn’t take any special training to build family memories— only a mom or dad, or grandfather or grandmother, who knows it’s important to be available to their kids.
Did you know that children spell love differently than most adults do? Most children spell love with a T, an I, an M and an E. That’s right. TIME is how most children spell love. “Healthy parents don’t find time, they make time.” It can be so difficult at times. Why? We’re all busy with demands and pressures.
In the midst of this busyness our children can easily seem like an interruption. It is unrealistic for us to always drop everything and cater to the demands of our children. At the same time we need to remember that children don’t have the same sense of time that we do.
How can we “make time?” One way is set aside special times for them. Acknowledge them when they get up in the morning or when they get home from school or another event. Set aside quantity time at certain times during the week.
As you study your children you may discover certain times during the day when they are more open to chatting. A smart parent will try to “set aside” their schedule during these times and just “happen” to be available to talk about their day, read with them, play with them, or share your day with them.
One of the things I read many years ago is that psychologist have studied why people feel loved and cared for. It is not because someone says I love you. Although that is important. The most significant thing is that when people come home they ask about each other’s day and they talk about what went on, and they communicate.
Jureen was awesome at this with our kids. Derek used to say to Jureen, “What is with the 20 questions? What are you so nosey?” She would just say, “I care about you! I’m interested.”
I don’t know of very many families today that aren’t over-committed. I believe that lack of time, or to be more accurate, lack of choosing to make time may be the most insidious, pervasive, and destructive enemy the healthy family has. That may sound a bit strong but in many ways it is true.
Allen Peterson has written, “If I could start my family again, one thing would be changed. I would play more with my three boys, and cultivate more family sharing experiences. By sharing good times a family builds cohesiveness and unity. They learn to enjoy each other and compensate for each other’s weaknesses. The play of children is something of a rehearsal for life, and parents who share these times of play will have a great opportunity to teach their children how to live.”
Time is a concrete, measurable expression of love. When I give someone the gift of time I am saying “I value you” and “You are important to me.” The key to having a strong marriage, to communicating values to our kids is time. If we want our children to know, understand and adopt our values, we need to spend time with them.
Most people would say that they believe the family is important and that it is one of their top priorities. In a recent survey a group of people who stated that family is one of their top priorities were asked, “Do you plan your expenditure of time and money around your marriage and family relationships?” Over 80% stated that while they valued their marriage and family, what in fact happened was that they didn’t consistently give their marriage and family first place.
When 1,500 school children were asked the question, “What do you think makes a happy family?” the most frequent answer was “doing things together.” Over the years I’ve learned that in life it’s not so much what we do for our kids that impacts them. It’s what we do with them. When you think back to the happy times of your childhood what kinds of memories come to mind? When you get together with family or childhood friends and recall the “good old days” what is it that made those days good?
I read this week a convicting story of the value and importance of making the family a priority.
A middle-class family in the 40’s set a family goal of remodeling their old bathroom. After a year of financial sacrifices they finally had enough cash for the project. At the family conference held to finalize the plans one of the children suggested, “Why don’t we use the money for a trip and fix the bathroom next year?” Even though it involved a change in plans everyone liked the suggestion and that summer they took the money and went to Yellowstone National Park.
With the money spent, the saving started all over in order to do the postponed remodeling the next year. When it came time to hire the contractor the family’s conversation drifted to how much they had enjoyed the trip to Yellowstone and the inevitable suggestion surfaced: “Why not put off the bathroom for just one more year and take another family trip?” They all agreed.
This scene was repeated every year from 1940 until 1950 when the youngest son was killed in Korea.
On the night before his final battle he wrote a letter to his parents. The letter arrived months after the family had been notified of his death. There was a special emotion as Mom and Dad sat in their living room to read to each other their son’s last words.
In this touching letter the young soldier expressed a premonition that he might soon die. He thanked his folks for their love and the many happy experiences of growing up, especially recalling the annual family trips they all shared. Long silence followed the reading as both quietly wept. The silence was broken when the dad asked, “Honey, could you imagine a son writing home on the night before he died and saying how glad he was for a fancy new bathroom?”
In the next two weeks I encourage you to invest some focused time with your family.
There are a lot of options:
Go to church together,
Play Frisbee at a local park,
Take one of them to Cracker Barrel for a huge breakfast,
Plan your next vacation.
At least have them over for dinner.
And sit down and enjoy them.
Build Family Memories! You will be glad you did!