Thursday, December 29, 2011


(As the year closes, please consider this article as a challenge to think carefully about what you are handing down to your descendants.)

My wife loves barns.  It was one of the first things I learned about her.  I like to tell people, “our next house is a barn”.  The barn* in the picture to the right is affectionately called “StarBarn” by our family.  The photo, itself, is entitled Red, White, and Barn and it's dedicated to my bride.  These days the old barn just stores hay.  I had a bright idea.  I tracked down the owner of the land and explained to them that I had a great photo of their barn.  Since it only holds hay now, I wonder if they would allow me to cut the star out of the barn, repair the hole, and present the star to my wife.  It was worth a shot.  The response I got was even sweeter than the idea of possessing that star.

By phone I spoke to the old farmer’s wife whose parents had immigrated from Scandinavia to raise wheat in the promising fields of the New World.  She actually was sympathetic to my romantic gesture and I’d like to think she gave it a half minute’s consideration before replying, “Well, no, we don’t want to see that star go.  You see, my mom painted that star on that barn soon after my dad built it.  It was something they did back in the old country and she wanted to keep that tradition alive here in America.  We actually have an old picture of my mom painting that star on the barn.”  Wow, now I’m feeling like I should ensure the preservation of that star – maybe a nice moisture-controlled, hermetically-sealed case.  What a treasure!  Let’s catch a word from our Sponsor:
For I [Apostle Paul] am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. (2 Timothy 1:12)
You see, Paul’s disciple, Timothy, was custodian of a Star as well (see Numbers 24:17).  Grandmother Lois had become a follower of Jesus.  In turn, Lois’ daughter became a follower.  Then the third generation, Timothy, became a follower of Jesus, himself, honoring the legacy handed down to him.  Before Timothy ever drew breath, something of great value was awaiting him.  He went on to become one of the most influential leaders in the young Christian church – all because his ancestors handed down to him something of enduring value to them.

In the Smith family, we do Christmas gifts a little differently than most.  Each child gets four gifts, The Jesus Gifts – gold, frankincense, myrrh, and swaddling clothes.  I’m not sure, yet, what the boys think about this year’s Gold, but it was a long labor of love from their parents – literally.  I spent the summer and fall downloading old VHS tapes, scanning print photos, digitizing ancient slides and negatives, and pulling old cassette tape content onto my computer.  Every media-borne memory is now on my computer.  (And my computer is now on Carbonite!)  For Christmas, I edited 30 to 50 minute “Human Highlight Reels” for each of our four boys.  For me, it brought the sweetest flood of memories reaching back over a quarter century.  Our new daughter-in-love cried watching the 24-year life-span of her groom unfold before her eyes.  Forgotten, but not gone moments in each child’s life are now back within their grasp – every boy’s media memories loaded onto their own portable hard drive.  If not now, in due time, this may be their “star barn”.  That was Gold – a gift of enduring value. 

Frankincense, the gift that reminds of us of our spiritual connection with God, is also on those hard drives in two parts.  Part 1 is 100 Hymns of the Faith.  They may never listen to them, but in some future decade when a “far advanced” civilization mentions the word “hymn”, at least my sons will know where to find one.  “…pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise...”  Yeah, that’s lame sauce.  Frankincense Part 2 is special to our family.  My oldest son remembers me thundering away in the pulpit, but the three younger boys were usually in children’s church when I was “shucking the corn”.  Now, they have videos and audio going all the way back to my ordination sermon, and even one special sermon I did based on the biblical characters after whom they were named – Isaac, Noah, Joshua, Gideon – all mentioned in Hebrews 11.

Every generation has to figure out what of their parents’ world they will embrace and what they will release – what hand-me-downs to cherish and when to get new stuff.  I’m sure there was a time that the old farmer’s wife would’ve paid me to paint over that dumb star.  Now, it is a family heirloom.  My boys are young adults, reorganizing the furniture of their new, mature world.  Whether in the pulpit or at the dinner table, we’ve given them a foundation – firm and secure.  Like Lois and Eunice, my wife and I pray that our sons enter their worlds boldly and create a whole new legacy that rises high above this foundation.

My mom’s favorite hymn was “Wherever He Leads, I’ll Go”.  Mine is “He Leadeth Me” (as performed by the Martins).  They’re both in the Top 100.  Followers of Jesus don’t go the direction their parents tell them to. Followers of Jesus follow where He leads.  And we’ve handed THAT down to our children.

Clark H Smith

* StarBarn is at the northeast corner of US 81 and River Bottom Road (Co Rd 352) 3.5 miles north of Concordia, Kansas.  You can see it on Street View on Google Maps.  The current owners were so very kind to send me a copy of the photo of grandma up on a rickety scaffold painting the star as grandpa looked on.  I framed both pictures together.  This hangs in the front entry of our home. (click the pic to enlarge)
The text in the middle is a wonderful word from our Sponsor:
The LORD will command the blessing upon you in your barns and in all that you put your hand to, and He will bless you in the land which the LORD your God gives you. (Deuteronomy 28:8)

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