Review Your Year. Propel Your Faith.

 

We had a 10 inch black and white television in the corner of the living room when I was growing up. As mother banged around the kitchen making dinner, my brother and I sat side by side on the brown couch watching Sesame Street. I remember the four squares and the song, “One of these things is not like the other.” There was also a cartoon teaching a memory tool. A little girl is walking from home to the store to get bread and needs to remember signposts along the way, a clock tower, a red firehouse, a statue. We gathered the signposts with her. We didn’t want her to get lost. We wanted to see her safely home, bread in her arms.

 

We often don’t take time to gather the signposts. We forget to read the signs.

 

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During the summer, if you were to hike the Gorham Mountain Trail in Acadia National park, you might see a long line of my extended family trekking up the path. We haul a picnic and sherpa small ones in backpacks. We forage for blueberries along the trail and then spread out at overlooks catching our breath, watching the sun sparkle on the Atlantic.

 

The top of Mt. Gorham has round granite patches, small fir trees that look like bonsai trees sculpted by the wind, and stone cairns that show the way. “Don’t destroy or move Bates’ cairns” a National Park sign said along the trail: “Follow the path.” But these are not just random stacks of stones. These cairns were intentionally erected by Waldron Bates around the year 1900 and if you poke your head around a boulder on the Mt. Gorham trail, you’ll glimpse a bronze plaque green with age, “Waldron Bates, Pathmaker, in Memorium 1856-1909.” Bates mapped out many of the paths on the east side of the park. Lately, a local, fed up with the cairns being destroyed, began a preservation society selling t-shirts with a simple illustration of one of Bates’ cairns on the front. Some t-shirts say, “Preserve Acadia,” others say, “Preserve the Message.”

 

 

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The people of Israel had just marched across the River Jordan on solid ground and in turn God had proven that Moses, who had just died, was not the holder of innate magic. Yahweh was confirmed faithful to his people with or without his servant. They were not lost. They were not orphaned. One man from each tribe gathered a stone and placed it next to that night’s campground. It was a permanent testimony written into the landscape.

 

But it is Psalm 78 that haunts me. In one long poem it retells the journey to the promised land complete with the repetitive punctuation of the Israelites’ disbelief. Stories of salvation abound throughout the Psalm: forging through the Red Sea, manna covering the ground like snow, water spurting out of rock, and small birds careening into the camp ready for a barbeque. Throughout the Psalmist declares sentences like this: “They did not remember his power or the day He had redeemed them from their foe,” and, “Despite His wonders, they did not believe.”

 

The psalmist equates a poverty of faith with a deficit in memory.

 

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This time of the year, we are invited to remember. We make an intentional pilgrimage back up the mountain to look for signposts of God’s movement. Here are a few of mine this year:

  • God opened more grace in our marriage and we were provided with a sweeping preview of the coming years.
  • Family members who were at odds offered forgiveness and I had the privilege of being witness.
  • Grandfather passed away while we stood around his bedside and prayed him home.
  • Impossible prayers were answered.

 

But the actions of God deserve marking whatever their size. Sometimes God’s work in the human soul is a subtle, soundless shift. We don’t recognize the immensity of their movement until months later. Sometimes we pay attention and are propelled to praise. Sometimes we don’t. The moment passes and it does not become a part of us. We see God’s actions, glance as we pass, and then forget. We let it go. It washes downstream. 

 

It is in the remembering that our faith is fortified. 

 

We recognize the signposts of God and sit and stare for a while. We listen for the message written in the stones. We sit in silent awe before we swing our backpacks on and trek into the new year.

 

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Here are some ideas for your time of remembrance:

 

*Use these simple questions: What did you find was life-giving this year? What took away life? Where did you see the movements of God?

 

*Spend an afternoon reading through last year’s journal then write your findings in a fresh, new notebook.

 

*Look through last year’s calendar and make notes.

 

*Check out Tsh Oxenreider’s 20 questions here.

 

*This is a fantastic time to do an end of year examen. Find an example here.

 

*This time of the year as we drive the miles home from family, I often listen to Dan Allender’s podcast for inspiration: Ending the Year Well. It’s extremely worth your time.

 

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3 Comments

  1. So glad you are writing again, sweet Summer (whose name is a perpetual reminder of flourishing).

    I can’t as easily follow your recorded messages… though lovely of course, but a little harder for me to carve out the time. this is such a meaningful post, and I went ahead and re-read Setting a Tray, linked here, and as you know a fave of mine.

    I love collecting stones in my journal, esp. this time of year. Thank you for the reminder to remember!! It surely is a faith-builder.

    Happy New Year, dear one!
    Love
    Lynn

    PS Your description of near-BBQ’d birds is priceless!!!

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