My husband and I have been hiking every weekend for the past couple of months. We started just walking around the neighborhood with our boys as a way to help our youngest son who needed to lose a few pounds (a recommendation from his cardiologist). Soon enough though, we found ourselves enjoying the outdoors and what it was doing to us physically and mentally.
Before long, we started going to the park for long hikes and finding any sort of excuse to go back regularly. I still remember our first long hike–5 miles! I thought I was going to grow tree trunks under my feet; I was on fire and not in a good way! Breathing fresh air and the beauty of the park, however, helped make the workout more enjoyable and added to our desire to keep coming back again and gain.
On one of our hikes, we had been going for about two miles when we met a hill that left me wishing I had wings to fly far, far away. After walking awhile, I had to stop and rest for a few seconds. This was a good time for a water break. I leaned against a large tree while my husband passed back and forth (he’s a lot more dedicated than I). Just a few feet below me, there was a pile of rocks that looked a lot like a stone altar. “Honey, check that out!” I quickly pointed to it.
Although it was full of moss and all kinds of wilderness insects, it was quite beautiful. We stared at it a few moments while commenting on how it would be a perfect place to bring friends for a devotion or a time of prayer. With that we fell quiet, meditating for a few seconds. Of course, the idea is not original, the children of Israel were building stone altars thousands of years before any of us were even thought of.
Check out these scriptures:
1 Kings 18:31-33: He took twelve stones, for the number of tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the LORD had said, “Your name shall be Israel.” He built an altar in honor of the LORD with the stones, and made a trench around the altar large enough for two seahs of grain.
Deuteronomy 27: 21-5 2 When you have crossed the Jordan into the land the LORD your God is giving you, set up some large stones and coat them with plaster. 3 Write on them all the words of this law when you have crossed over to enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you. 4 And when you have crossed the Jordan, set up these stones on Mount Ebal, as I command you today, and coat them with plaster. 5 Build there an altar to the LORD your God, an altar of stones.
Joshua 4:3 3 and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”
Altars have been around for centuries, no news there. Altars were erected for various reasons; sacrifices, offerings, for commemorating, judging, repenting, and to remember.
In many instances in the Old Testament, we read of God’s instructions to the children of Israel, to raise up 12 stones as an altar of remembrance. Why was that so important? Because generations come and go, and if we do not raise up altars of remembrance, our children’s children will grow up not knowing the stories and without a clue about the miracles and great things God has done for us.
It is important for us who are parents to pass on to our children the message, gospel, relationship and the love for God that we have been given. Though for the children of Israel, these memorials were quite literal, you can get very creative with your own family and set up monuments of your own to remind you of a pivotal point in your family’s time, when God’s amazing grace met up with you for a unique and special purpose.
Some ideas on how you can have rocks of remembrance are:
- Creatie a photo album that tells the story of what you’ve experienced (photos tell amazing stories).
- Have your children write letters with their thoughts about what the family experienced, then place them in a decorative box.
- Write a story that can be read on the anniversary of the event.
- Encourage your children to journal, especially about meaningful God experiences. Occasionally remind them to go back and read what they wrote.
These simple ideas can create a sense of remembrance and reverence in your children–and adults. It is important to have these “stone altars” that we can visit from time to time.
As we moved on from our brief cross-country stop, I snapped a few shots of the mossy pile of stones and felt as though I’d had an a-ha moment with God. I realized I was surrounded by His beautiful creation and that His essence was all around us. I meditated and worshipped the rest of the way, rather than complaining about how tired I was. I’d met with God in the most casual, simple and unexpected place.