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Solution to Forgetfulness: A Pile of Stones

Written By Karen Pimpo, USA

Because I’m forgetful, I made a pile of stones and put them in my living room.

I was inspired by a kind woman named Terri Carter whom I’ve met only once in my life. My college choir was performing at her church one weekend almost two years ago, and she hosted me for the evening. Terri and her husband Jim live down south in the US where the air is always warm, and they showed me much love and kindness during my stay. But what I will never forget about Mrs. Carter was the pile of stones in her living room.

I remember walking through their house and admiring all of the rooms, the cherry hardwood floors, the beds that were made perfectly, and the towels that hung just so. In the living room, however, there was one decoration that seemed out of place. Near the front door just next to a plump couch was a very large glass bowl on a side table. Inside the bowl was a pile of smooth stones, and on the face of each stone was a number. In such a lovely house, such an unusual decoration seemed curious.

When I asked my hostess about the numbered stones, her face lit up. Then she told me something I will never forget: those were her stones of remembrance.

One night, she told me, she couldn’t sleep. So she read her Bible, and came across the story in Joshua 4, which tells of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River. God told them to get 12 stones from the bottom of the river and build a monument on the other side. They could reach the deep riverbed because God had miraculously caused a dry path to open up in the middle of the river, making a safe way for His chosen people to pass through the danger zone unharmed. God told the Israelites that when their children asked them about those 12 stones, they were to recount the story of God’s faithfulness.

Just like the monument in the book of Joshua, the pile of stones in the Carters’ living room had a meaning. Each numbered stone had a corresponding journal entry recording an instance of God’s intervention in their lives. Like the time they had cried out to the Lord when the rent was due and they had no money, and a check arrived in the mail the next day. If more of us would write and share these mighty works of the Lord, said Mrs. Carter, we could all be encouraged to press on even when the tough times came. That idea stuck with me.

It also made me realize this truth: We’re just terrible at remembering, as were the Israelites.

Psalm 106 recounts their first miraculous river crossing and their memory of it. “So he rescued them from their enemies and redeemed them from their foes . . . Yet how quickly they forgot what he had done!” (Psalm 106:10, 13).

Not much, it appears, has changed in the last few thousand years. I am still quick to forget what God has done.

There have been times in my life when God’s promises seemed blurry, and dark days when all my faith and hope seemed hollow. When the future looked grim and meaningless. In those times, however, God graciously asked me to turn my gaze to my past and the monuments of His faithfulness.

When a friend of mine passed away unexpectedly this summer, it was shocking and painful. It felt like a terrible nightmare, only it was a terrible reality. It opened my eyes to how broken the world really is. That’s when I found encouragement in the testimonies of other people who had experienced similar tragedy, and in the comfort and wisdom of parents, grandparents, and mentors who have walked for years with God and as a result have a deep well of truth to draw from when things seem dark. God’s faithfulness in their lives was encouragement for mine.

In Psalm 77, we find this same pattern of despair turned to remembering.

“Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”(Psalm 77:7-12)

Right now, there are three stones of remembrance in my life. They sit in a little glass bowl on my dresser, each with a number, representing the three times when God revealed Himself to me in a life-changing, miraculous intervention. These stones form a monument to God’s faithfulness in my life, and I fully expect to see it grow.

How about you? Are you storing reminders for a dark day, and sharing these testimonies with everyone who asks? It’s time to lay some stones.

Martin Luther: And So He Died As He Lived

Written by Karen Pimpo, USA

“And so he died as he lived.” That’s how Martin Luther was eulogized after his death on February 18, 1546, some 470 years ago.

When I saw that phrase written on the wall of Luthers Sterbehaus—the museum honoring his last days—in Eisleben, Germanyit stopped me dead in my tracks (okay, poor choice of words, but still). I was frozen in the middle of the crowded Luther Museum as I turned that phrase over and over in my mind: “And so he died as he lived.”

After a lifetime of religious activism and rigorous study, being labeled a heretic by the church, devoting his waking hours to translating and preaching, Martin Luther lay gasping on a bed in the same town where he had been born 62 years earlier. And how did he die? Offering final words of godly wisdom, surrounded by friends and family, confessing his sins and committing his soul to Christ. Seems like a good way to go.

Martin Luther was by no means a perfect man. But the legacy he left his family, his church, and Christianity on a global scale, was profound. He’s best known for starting the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago and recovering the doctrine of justification, which states that a person is saved by God’s grace alone and not by any work of man.

And he achieved the honor of leaving this world authentically—true to himself and what he believed. Refusing to compromise or become something he was not for the sake of appearances. Continuing to preach and confess the same gospel on his death bed that he had followed his entire career.

If you know anything about Luther, you probably know he was a monk (more or less), a pastor, a hymn-writer, and a theologian. But he didn’t just go to church to keep up appearances; he went because he was truly invested. 

Luther cared deeply about what he saw as a broken relationship between pastors and congregations. He recognized that God’s Word—at that time reserved for the learned scholars, theologians, and priests—was not going out to the common people. So he spent eleven all-consuming weeks, hidden away in the drafty Wartburg Castle with his life under threat, painstakingly translating the Greek New Testament into a language that the common people could understand. Luther’s concerns about the church didn’t simply make him uncomfortable. Instead, they moved him to action. Difficult, world-changing, and costly action.

Martin Luther’s death in 1546 was not altogether unexpected; he had been battling a multitude of health problems for some time. But perhaps he thought he had many years of ministry left, more memories to make with his wife and children, and more places to visit and sights to enjoy. Regardless, he didn’t wait for those days to come. He was on fire and determined to do the Lord’s work now, and we are still feeling its impact 500 years later.

Would they say that about me someday? “And so Karen died as she lived.”  I desperately want it to be true. I want to live and die honorably, full of love, making a difference.

But I have my doubts. Perhaps they would say, She died as she lived—full of regret. Crippled by anxieties and insecurities. Unable to let go of the past. Afraid of the future. Because sometimes, that’s how I live.

Like the apostle Paul in Romans 7, I have lots of good intentions to live an authentic life for God. But there are things I abandon that I should not, and things I hold on to that I should let go. Sometimes, even as a redeemed child of God, I carry regrets and fears that cloud my vision and paralyze my hands.

But that’s not how I want to be. I want to live and die in a way that is consistent with my faith, authentic to who I am, unchanging over time, just as Luther did.

The great thing about the Christian life is that we don’t do anything on our own power—there is already One who has promised to see His good work through to completion.

“Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for He who calls you is faithful.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, NLT, emphasis added)

On the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Luther reminds us to act wisely, spend our hours shrewdly, and live authentically. To be awakened to the God we serve, the world needs people who live like Luther.

 

Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.

Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is.

You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.

My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.

We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.

We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it.

And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?

My only hope is in you.

(Psalm 39:4-7, NLT)