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Monday, April 19, 2010

Hay wagon (photo by Doris High)
Hay wagon
A great sign of spring is the the first Alfalfa harvest.
Photo by Doris High

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"What Do These Stones Mean?"

"What do these stones mean?" (Joshua 4:21).

On the way to church yesterday morning we passed a freshly mown and raked hay field; a visible sign of early spring and the first harvest. It was also a sight that prompts a memory about my life nearly 34 years ago.

Our wedding photoRight after Brooksyne and I were married on May 8, 1976, I assumed the pastorate of a small country church about 20 miles north of Springfield, Missouri. Those were sure wonderful days as we established the foundation of our new marriage and the beginning of our pastoral ministry. (If you are curious you can click on our wedding photo for a larger version.)

To supplement the meager income I received from the small church I assisted the local farmers in field work, including putting up hay. These were the smaller bales that we pitched up on a farm wagon from the field, then took to the barn and stored for the season (we called this process "bucking hay")

Sometimes we did thousands of bales at a time and I came home bone weary in the early morning hours to my young wife.  We look back on this time as so formative and we learned about God's faithfulness during this early phase of our marriage.  A field of freshly raked hay or stacked bales of hay, to me, are a little like a spiritual stone pile as mentioned in Joshua.

As I study God's Word I notice how connected the people of God were with their past and how God instituted reminders for them.  As I observe contemporary man I am struck by how little many know about the past and what little interest they have in it.

Here's the setting of the daily text: Under Joshua's leadership the Israelites had crossed the Jordan and come into the Promised Land. The crossing itself was another miraculous intervention from God.  He parted the waters 40 years earlier at the Red Sea and had done so again at the crossing of the Jordan River which at the time was at flood stage.

Memorial stone pile
God instructed Joshua to set up twelve stones as a memorial. He anticipated that future generations would ask about this stone memorial; "In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, 'What do these stones mean?'"

He instructed the Israelites to answer the question by recounting the story of God's wonderful deliverance that had just taken place. "He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that they might always fear the LORD your God" (Joshua 4:24).

There are several other memorials in the Book of Joshua.  In fact, immediately prior to his death, Joshua set up a stone as a witness in regard to his powerful challenge to the people in making the daily choice to serve God.  (Joshua 24:27)

I have two challenges today concerning your life.

1) Do you recall certain "stone piles" in your life that remind you of God's faithfulness?  These may be either purposefully set up as they were in Joshua's time or they may be a divinely ordained event in life.  What a blessing to recall these "stone piles" as reminders of God's faithfulness.

2) Do you have "stone piles" set up for those who come behind you?  These may be specific memories of God's help, places, items, or people that prompt the question, "What does this mean?" Then you can answer by testifying of God's faithfulness to you.

Perhaps we all need to set up some spiritual stone piles!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily Prayer: Father, I marvel at the trace of Your hand in my life.  If I were to speak of the "stones" of deliverance and provision the first and most important "stone" would be the moment You delivered me from darkness and transferred me into the kingdom of Your light.  You took the uncertainties of my life and gave me an eternal purpose for living.  I am so grateful for the "stone" of salvation that is the starting point for the path of stones where I've seen Your hand in my life as I've experienced Your deliverance, provision and faithfulness every step along  my pilgrim journey. Step by step, Lord, You walk with me on this straight and narrow path that leads to life eternal.

Stephen's study note: The setting up of the stone pile in Joshua was a literal, historical event that took place about 3,400 years ago serving as a reminder of God's faithfulness and provision on behalf of His people during that specific event. Perhaps the greatest similarity to such an event for followers of Christ from all generations and places is the Lord's Supper, a regular reminder of God meeting our greatest need through Christ.

Brooksyne's Note: I have in storage a number of "stone" momentos as we've called it today based upon the Joshua passage in regard to Ester's very critical heart condition the first four years of her life. Feeding tubes, oxygen tubes, a large syringe in which I fed her for months, a tattered blanket from her days when she was cared for in a Guatemalan orphanage, and a journal in which I kept records of amazing recoveries she experienced in her early years from surgeries where doctors had given her little hope.  Her story is based upon several miracles and the only way she would know of God's provisions is by my having kept records and on occasion pulling them out of storage and reminding her of the ways that God has cared for her. These reflections always warm her heart and help her to see that God has a special purpose for her life.

Singing Men of Messiah Village 4/18/10
Last night we attended an inspirational gospel concert by "The Singing Men" from Messiah Village, a large retirement center near Harrisburg, PA. Here's an audio (not professionally produced of course, but will give a sense of the rich acapella voices). The men were all seniors and some in their nineties!

Donegal Springs Road, Mount Joy, PA 4/16/10
Friday afternoon I drove into town and thought this was an interesting view along Donegal Springs Road in Mount Joy. The trees along the road appear to form a tunnel-like archway!

Meeting House Road 4/19/10
Early this morning I took a walk down the trail leading out across from our house. It's a beautiful day. I like the view of the red barn and silo you can barely see through the trees on the left side.  My goal was the stone pile seen at the end of the trail.

Meeting House Road stone pile 4/19/10
 I don't think there's any spiritual significance or lessons from this stone pile! It's at a corner of several fields and is likely the result of generations of farmers piling stones they had removed from their fields.

Greenhouses 4/19/10
Longtime readers may recall Jesse and Anna Ruth, our Amish friends we periodically refer to in this series.  In the Spring of 2007 they moved back to their home area near Strasburg, PA and the farm they lived on was sold to a wholesale greenhouse grower. This morning I stepped up on the stone pile and observed that the greenhouses are going up.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

Faithfulness plaque
"Great Is Thy Faithfulness"  Video  If you have dinner in our home you will probably join us around our dining room table in singing the first verse and chorus to this great hymn prior to our prayer.

"A Place Called Grace"  Video  Phillips, Craig and Dean

"He's Been Faithful To Me"  Video  Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir  This has been one of Brooksyne's favorite songs for many years.

"He's Always Been Faithful To Me"  Video  Sara Groves

Doris High
Today's photo of the hay wagon is part of a spring photo collection posted by our friend Doris High using soft focus.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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