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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.

Are You Up for the #Icebucketchallenge?

Everyone seems to be drenching themselves with buckets of icy cold water these days.

The Internet is awash (pun intended) with such videos—just search #icebucketchallenge. If you have not yet caught on the action, this viral Internet sensation is known as the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge”. Individuals including actors, singers, sports personalities, business tycoons and even politicians pour a bucket of ice water over their heads, when they are “challenged” by another person, all in a bid to raise awareness and money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”.

The #icebucketchallenge is simple:

  • If you have been nominated by someone, douse yourself with a bucket of icy cold water within 24 hours, or donate money to the ALS Association (many end up doing both).
  • Nominate three other people to do the same after that.

While some have called it a “waste of water” and an example of “slactivism” (where people can feel good about themselves without actually needing to put in much effort or involvement), it’s hard to dispute the effectiveness of the campaign. Just over a few days, awareness and donations towards ALS have surged to record highs. I myself had no inkling about this disease prior to this online craze and now, I’m writing about it.

But just like every other craze, this #icebucketchallenge fad will fade away. Soon, many, including those who participated in the challenge and gave large sums to the cause will forget all about this debilitating disease that plagues the lives of two out of 100,000 people. All of us will return to the grind of our daily lives until the next meaningful cause-driven fad sweeps us off our feet and prompts an outpouring from our pockets.

I’m not trying to pour cold water on this campaign. In fact, this is one of those few Internet crazes that I actually find brilliant and support. It’s also a perfect example that we need such “splashes of cold water” every so often to remind ourselves, or even educate ourselves, about what’s important in life.

Reminders, in and of themselves, are not new. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were made to offer up sacrifices annually as reminders of their sins (Hebrews 10:3). These were solemn and graphic reminders of the terrible cost of sin. Watching the sacrificial process would likely have invoked feelings of remorse, self-reproach, and guilt in the individual, with some perhaps resolving in their hearts to turn away from their sins and starting afresh. It’s the effect such “high” moments have on us, especially when there are many others resolving to do the same thing too. It’s no wonder then, how the #icebucketchallenge took the world by storm and made donating to ALS a very cool (pun intended again) thing to do.

But let us not kid ourselves that a simple donation, or one-time resolve in our hearts are good enough. There needs to be follow up, an active effort on our part to keep doing what we’ve committed to do, regardless of whether others are doing so.

In the book of James, we read about people who just hear the word versus those who act on it—the difference is forgetfulness. James 1:23-25 says, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”

So, to all of us forgetful people, let’s remind ourselves, as often as we need, to act on what the Bible says, for the sake of God’s glory. But beyond the act of just reminding ourselves, let’s focus on the follow up action after that to make such reminders truly effective. Whether it’s to stop sinning or start doing what we’ve put off for far too long (like giving towards useful causes like ALS), let’s do them, whether or not they are cool to do.