Altars of Remembrance
My heart pumps to the rhythm of the bass as music thumps and swells energy through the crowd. We stand in a sea of golden clad fans, a smattering of those in green add to our numbers. The fall sun pleasantly warms our backs and the shade, cast by the stands above us, approaches with the promise of a beautiful early fall afternoon.
Red fireworks crack overhead during the national anthem, and the crowd thunders as green flares shoot into the sky following the school song. The players sprint onto the field through an arch of flares; the jumbo tron thunders, blaring music and highlights from previous games. The video begins with a grainy black and white clip, then a montage of decades of tackles and hits, scenes of trophies raised high, green and gold confetti falling, the opponent falling short and winning scoreboards. The pre-game hype video leaves the crowd cheering, yelling, ready to play!
Moments in history. Tradition. Remembrance.
As soon as I set the mail
on the kitchen counter, I rip open the package and crack open the book as soon as I slide it out of the bright orange box. The smell of paper and ink greet me as I flip page by page, smiling back at the photos of familiar faces. Memories of the year past flood my mind - football games, trips, family visits and holidays. The photos tell the story of the year - at least most of it. It’s hard to take pictures of the day to day that makes our lives what they are, and it’s difficult to show the depth of challenges with captions. But the pictures help me remember.
My tradition of making a hardcover book of the year’s highlights in pictures has resulted in a stack of 12x12 books that sits on a shelf in our entry way. I add the new book to the current stack and start to walk away, butthen I pause. Instead of moving on to the rest of the mail and evening’s chores, I sit in the floor and pull out a book from the middle of the stack. Many of the same faces grace the pages, but they are much younger. The holidays are the same, but the gifts are different. The vacations were a variety of locations, but the time together was still the most important part of the time away. My heart and mind are full of memories as I slide the book back into the stack.
I sit, curled up in a green paisley chair in the corner of our home office. My Bible and journal on my lap, I am alone for a moment on this Saturday morning. The house is quiet. After a week of busy schedules and difficult conversations, I open my journal and pause, not sure exactly what to write or even how to begin to pray. I set my pen down and close my eyes. I feel a whisper deep within my soul, “Just remember.”
I open my eyes, focus my mind and begin to flip through the pages. The blue ink whispers reminders of how often I’ve praised the Lord for these quiet moments, for the dawn of a new day, for the change of seasons, for rain and for sunshine, for guidance and wisdom in difficult conversations, for breath, for life. Bible verses scrawled and highlighted and rewritten. Prayers pleaded on paper for those who hurt, for my family, for my friends, for my own strength as I walk difficulties. Over and over, I’ve come to the Lord’s throne. Time and again, He is faithful.
As the Israelites crossed into the Promised Land, Joshua 4 tells us, “When all the people had crossed the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Choose twelve men, one from each tribe.’ Tell them, ‘Take twelve stones from the very place where the priests are standing in the middle of the Jordan. Carry them out and pile them up at the place where you will camp tonight…. In the future, your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them… These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.”
The stones will stand as a memorial among the people forever. A memorial forever.
After 40 years of wandering, the Israelites needed to remember all the Lord had done for them. Oral stories alone wouldn’t suffice to remember the parting of the waters (twice!), the daily manna or the pillar of smoke or the wanderings and consistent provision, instead they needed a tangible and visible reminder.
I believe I require the same - a visible reminder of the goodness of God. Instead of an altar of stones, I have a drawer full of journals and a shelf full of photo books, but they all serve to help me remember.
As the hype video closes, the bass of the music continues to pulse. Suddenly, I’m aware of the chills all along my spine and oddly timed tears in my eyes. I love the pageantry and the traditions of football games and the way it feels like the crowd is one in mind and heart. Similar chills and tears often make their appearance as I look through old photos of our family. The way the memories held within the pictures are woven through each of our lives seems especially significant. Those chills and tears surface, too, when I notice, write and tell of what the Lord has done. And though it was vastly different, I wonder if the same chills tingled the spines of the Israelites as they stood beside the recently parted Jordan River and placed the stones into an altar. They’d come this far – with the Lord before them – now they walked into the Promised Land with a physical reminder to never forget.
The Psalmist, in Psalm 77, writes, “then I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your might works.” This is my desire. For His deeds to be constantly on my mind. Kay Barker, Minister to Preschool, also speaks about how she remembers and sees God’s hand throughout her ministry on this week’s Noisy Narratives podcast.
Bethany McMillon is a coffee, football, and ice cream lover from Texas. She adores her number-loving accountant husband and her growing too fast boy.
Bethany loves her work as an elementary assistant principal, and she is passionate about building deeper relationships with both Jesus and those that she loves. Her spirit is most settled after she has connected with a friend about God’s mercy and grace over coffee, sweet tea on the patio, or even a side-by-side walk through a local neighborhood. She hopes to encourage women to find and hold onto those connections within busy and quick-paced lives. Bethany’s writing can be found in the book, Strong, Brave and Beautiful: Stories of Hope for Moms in the Weeds, an anthology written by Emily Allen and members of the Kindred Mom team. She also writes occasionally on her website, www.BethanyMcMillon.com. She can also be found on instagram @BethanyMcMillon (www.instagram.com/BethanyMcMillon).