Thanksgiving Rocks

Published on 30 June 2024 at 15:32

Thanksgiving is not just a holiday, it’s an attitude that is (for some) maintained with some considerable effort. In that struggle, there are two things I know about having a perpetually thankful heart.

     FIRST THING I KNOW: It's easier to remember the difficult, the painful, and the disappointing than the grace, the blessings, and the miracles that come and go. That is especially true when facing the great challenges to our faith—but also personal inconveniences that are relatively insignificant in the light of eternity.

     THE SECOND THING I KNOW: Remembering how God has blessed us in the past provides the foundation to face future challenges. Yes, we can just stand on “the promises” without any reference to our personal history. However, the life of David showed how important it was to have good recollection of how God had helped him in the past. “God is our refuge and strength, a very ready help in trouble,” (Psalms 46:1)


    When the Children of Israel finally entered the Promised Land, there was a second miraculous river crossing. It is less known, perhaps because no movie has been made about it. As they were carrying the Ark of the Covenant across the dry Jordan River bed, Joshua was instructed to build a monument to the event. God told him to have men pick large rocks from the river bed and build a memorial beside the river where they emerged (Joshua 4:1-7). The purpose was to commemorate the event so that when their children and their children's children asked about those rocks, they would tell them the story.

“This shall be a sign among you; when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’  then you shall say to them, ‘That the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever,” (Joshua 4:6-8, NASB).

The Children of Israel in the wilderness were rather quick to forget their miraculous deliverance from Egypt and the Red Sea crossing. Losing that perspective, they complained about their circumstances, build a golden calf to worship, and longed to go back to Egypt (i.e. FIRST THING I KNOW).


    Linda and I were visiting her parents a few years ago, and I entertained myself with an old movie that I saw many years before. With Honors is about a bum (Joe Pesi) living in the basement of Harvard University's Winder Library and who befriends four Harvard students (Branden Frazier, Patrick Dempsey, et al)—a great movie but with a few objectionable parts that make it not entirely appropriate for kids. The bum living in the basement had had a pretty hard life—no accumulated possessions except a pouch containing five little rocks. Each rock represented one of his few happy memories. The story ends with the four graduates leaving Harvard, each picking up their own little rock of remembrance.

    I wish we had collected more mementoes through the years, but we do have a few things lying around that always bring up great memories. Like the outrageous home-made award from the students at the Maranatha Leadership Lab I led; the porcelain duck from our trip to visit friends Boulder; my dad's fly rod, my grandfathers antique chair, etc. There’s a maple tree in my front yard that I planted when Clara, one of our granddaughters, was born.

    At one particular point in my life, I experienced what Saint John of the Cross (1542-1591) referred to as the "dark night of the soul." Some of us have more happy memories than we will forever retain. Others like the bum in the movie have by comparison very few. But whether many or few, each of us at some point in our lives will have to fall back on our own thanksgiving rocks to get through what is ahead of us (i.e., SECOND THING I KNOW).


    Over the years I’ve tried to keep up the practice of scribbling in a journal—“old-world blogging” you can call it. Timelines and posts were not invented by Facebook, you know. Those in my extended family know that walking around in a cemetery, telling old stories, and writing in a diary all seem to be inherited traits. How those things that have come to be so deeply imprinted on our memories would take way too long to explain. I will just say that of generations of grandparents were careful to record and recount their blessings. That was particularly true of my great, great grandfather, John A. Taylor, who ended each year by recording his blessings, the major events of his life, and his gratitude to God.

    I began writing things down many years ago as an exercise of faith. As often as I could, I would simply list blessings large and small. Sometime afterwards, I went through one those very discouraging times. By chance I began to skim through the "Thankful Book" as it was then called. I was astounded as I recalled how many great things had happen and how consistently God's grace had been manifested in our lives. The most amazing part was how many things were so far removed from my memory that I would have certainly never again thought of them. Reading the Thankful Book had and continues to have a great effect on my outlook and perspective—greater than the best sermons and most inspirational stories.

    Though I've been keeping notes throughout the year, sometime between now and Dec 31, I will make a concerted attempt to follow the tradition of my great great grandfather, John A. Taylor, who lived in the big house at the end of the road. We will sit down to record in my journal how God has blessed us in throughout the previous year. Maybe someday our own grandkids will also read about how God had been faithful to us from generation to generation.

For He established a testimony in Jacob,
And appointed a law in Israel,
Which He commanded our fathers
That they were teach them to their children,
So that the generation to come would know, the children yet to be born,
That they would arise and tell them to their children,
So that they would put their confidence in God
And not forget the works of God,
But comply with His commandments,
And not be like their fathers,
A stubborn and rebellious generation,
A generation that did not prepare it's heart
And whose spirit was not faithful to God, (Psalm 78:5-8—NASB).

    A paraphrased version of the passage above could go like this: The Scripture commands that we diligently, repeatedly, and intentionally share the testimonies of God’s intervention in our lives as well as the faith and moral responsibilities as believers. It is in this way that a living faith is passed on to succeeding generations… that we not be like the previous generations who were unfaithful to cultivate the memories and testimonies of God’s grace and power.

    They were a stubborn and rebellious generation.

– Walt Walker



  • During the holiday season this year this year (2023), family members present set around sat around our dining room table, recounting all the blessings, provisions, and challenges God had seen through in 2023. Some had taken notes in preparation, and the conversation went on for well over an hour. The table talk after dinner turned competition over who could get a word in edgewise. We video taped the the after-dinner discussion for a future time when our faith and perspective are under attack. And just as I had anticipated, so many so many of God's blessings were things we had completely forgotten.
  • There is an abundance an abundance of rocks and boulders on the property to which we are we are in the process of moving. Jim quickly bought into the vision, and our discussion eventually turn to planting trees and moving rocks to memorialize the remarkable the guidance and provision for that property. It was a modern-day application of Psalms 78 (photo on the right).

"That they were teach them to their children,
So that the generation to come would know, the children yet to be born,
That they would arise and tell them to their children,
So that they would put their confidence in God
And not forget the works of God..."


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