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Your Memorial

When someone passes from this world, it is a time to remember. Many of us have experienced just such a time of memorial after having lost a loved one. For me, it was very significant to have lost my dad just a couple of weeks ago. When that happens, you want to remember them in the best way possible. I thought a lot about how to remember Dad. There weren’t great individual moments of achievement that I could point to in order to memorialize him. However, he did have qualities that I hope to pass on to generations to come. He also had points that I do not want to follow, as would be true of any person. The Lord gave me an opportunity to write a poem to describe some of both of those things.

Dad, tough, loyal, stubborn as a mule;
Hardworking, angry, then surprisingly gentle;
Powerful woodsman and hunter, local politician;
Everyday farmer, husband, and father.

Everyday, but not average. Well-read and literate
Early mornings with coffee and a novel (and a pipe)
We became readers and students, too.
You showed your commitment to schooling in Glidden.

More than all, you treasured Mom.
Things weren’t easy for her either.
All those kids! And not much help in the home
In your toughest times, she was the most important voice in your life.

Loved your time fishing and hunting
Got your share (and more) of deer in your prime
Got away when you could
Never seemed like enough for you.

It was a different time then, when you had to
Do what you had to do to get the job done.
We were along for the ride sometimes
You always provided – But it wasn’t always easy.

Long days of work, hot days in the hay barn,
Cold days getting firewood in the winter.
Tough days - cows getting out in the middle of the night
Priming the pump when things froze up on the coldest days

You just kept going every day, one foot in front of the other;
Checking the fire in the middle of the night
Thawing frozen pipes, Being an emergency vet
Dealing with stubborn animals and kids.

Many don’t understand it was tougher then, but we get it.
We learned work, life, faithfulness and family
We learned them from watching you and Mom
We learned a lot from you, Dad.

You weren’t perfect, never claimed to be
But you are a part of all of us
We carry you around with us
We give you our love, honor, and respect.

I’m glad I was able to write it. But for me, it is more notable for what it is missing. God isn’t mentioned. I can’t say anything about his relationship to God, because there is almost nothing to say. It’s just descriptive of him.
The nation of Israel, and Joshua in particular, have come to a day that is a milestone in their lives. After all these years, all these promises made to Moses and many before, they enter in to the Promised Land. How will the important events of your life be remembered? When you look back at your life, what kind of things do you want to remember? What kind of things do you want others to remember?
God gave them a day to remember. They were stuck on the east side of the Jordan River. Then, through His miraculous work, the Israelites were able to cross completely and safely. The way this would be remembered was their memorial. God wanted these stones to be assembled to answer this question: “What do these stones mean to you”? He knew that even though this is a miracle of ginormous size, the people would quickly forget and go back to their ‘what have you done for me lately’ attitudes. That is one of the sad but true realities about us as people, especially today. We forget things so quickly. God didn’t want that to happen – there was to be a reminder for the people to see.
I believe we can see three values of a memorial for God’s people in this chapter. God uses this memorial in three significant ways:
First of all, we can see this as a group memorial. Like there were things that we used to describe our father that had all of us remembering and nodding our heads, the funeral time was a memory for all my family. My sister did a good job of sorting through all kinds of old photos of my dad and putting collages together. There were some of the really old pictures in family history that many relatives in the family were going through to identify. There was a lot of visiting with old friends, neighbors, and family. We all had our memories brought together. Joshua is about to give the Israelites an opportunity to have a great group memory together by a visual picture of the nation being brought through. This is reinforced by gathering men from each tribe as a representative of each one. Recall this was done when spying out the land under Moses. But this time, the tribes are able to be glad in God’s work. Each representative picks a stone out of the Jordan riverbed. As they put these stones together, what does it mean? They can remember God bringing them through with unity. The tribes are united to follow God together. It is important symbolically as well as literally. It is important for us to remember all God is doing in our midst as a group. There is a strength in unity of purpose to do God’s will. The tribes have this united purpose.
Not only is this a group memorial, but it is also an individual memorial. Because there is a second memorial here. Joshua personally sets up a similar group of stones in the midst of Jordan, near where the priests were standing with the ark. As much as the nation had to thank God for this crossing, Joshua had even more to thank God for. He miraculously made a way to validate Joshua’s leadership and exalt Joshua as the new leader. At a time of memorial, we all have our own personal memorials. For example, I talked with my oldest brother Eric about when my dad had a broken arm, my mom was expecting within a month, and how he had to drive the tractor for baling hay as a 4-year old. I was able to pass on to my kids how my dad saw me as an out-of-control young man and tried to warn me about the dangers of my ways, which ultimately led to God saving my soul. Joshua has a personal memorial. It is also a memorial to the people, but most of all for their leader.
These memorials point to a third reason for a memorial. A memorial is to be for teaching. It is so the parents can teach their children about what God did that day. It is also a teaching lesson for generations to come. In addition, it is a teaching lesson for all people who seek to know the true God. This is about legacy. This is about God creating something that we would know for eternity. That He is mighty. That He is worthy of our praise and worship. That He is more powerful than a raging river. God wants us to know Him. He wants us to understand who He is and what He can do. God wants us to remember. He wants us to glorify Him. This miracle begins life in the Promised Land. What a way to start!

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