Among My Souvenirs
I will tell about Your righteous deeds all day long.
– Psalm 71:24 NLT
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 Your mighty deeds.
– Psalm 77:11-14 NLT
I dare to hope when I remember this: the faithful love of the Lord never ends. His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.
– Lamentations 3:20-23 NLT
Se souvenir. In French, it means to remember.
A souvenir; a tangible object from our travels or maybe an important event from our lives that we deposit in our memory bank, souvenirs serve to keep something significant available for our reflection.
I love rocks. I have collected a bunch of them from a lot of different places. I’m not a geologist, I can’t always identify what kind of rock it is, and it’s not really important to me. (Except for that one rock that I suspect just might be a dinosaur egg…) But what is important to me is the memory that goes along with the rock. I’m getting better with recording my memories in journals, but rocks have been a mainstay of souvenirs for a long time. I’m especially fond of the heart-shaped ones.
From my collection:
- The orange/red rock shaped like a rose from Noble, OK, where my mother was born and raised. Family memories of all flavors.
- A gray striped rock from Dachau concentration camp serves as a reminder never to forget what happened there, and my responsibility to do my part so that it never happens again.
- A smooth speckled rock that nestles deeply and snugly into my hand- from Iona, Scotland, a holy place of thin places, where God seems close.
- A flat, dark rock from the sea of Galilee- did someone in Jesus’ time skip that very stone across the water?
- A black rock, smooth and sharp as glass- volcanic obsidian from my home town of Flagstaff Arizona.
- An ordinary rock- gray, with a hole clear through it from my friend Owen, who taught me years ago to put a memory with my rocks.
We find stones and stories of remembrance prevalent in the Bible, as well. Just as our memories are often a mixed bag of sweet and sour, the biblical stories that include stones involve both joy and pain, miracles and killings.
A raging river turned in to dry land for the passage of God’s people, or a giant killed with a stone and a slingshot. Hundreds of times in the scripture, God commands us to remember
His commitment to us, His power, provision, and protection; to keep the souvenirs close at hand.
With Joshua leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, God parted the river Jordan, and the people all walked through on dry land, each tribe collecting a stone from the center of the riverbed. They built a memorial on the other side of the river, and their children and future generations heard the stories of God’s faithfulness and protection repeated every time they asked about the pile of stones. I can hear it now, “Let me tell you what the Lord did for us…Don’t ever forget, children. Our God is truly an awesome God!” (Joshua chapters 3,4)
Another time, after God’s direct intervention empowered Israel to defeat the Philistines in battle, the prophet Samuel placed a large stone on the road, naming it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” A visible reminder of God’s presence with them, and powerful provision for their safety, and a timely reminder that the same principle applies to us today. God takes care of His own. (I Samuel chapter 7)
As God instructed the Israelites, there may be nothing more valuable than to stop and take the time to remember what God has done. I think perhaps we experience “soul amnesia” that causes us to forget the road we’ve already traveled that bears witness to God’s faithfulness. The way His provision came in His own perfect timing, at just the right moment; the way He continues to teach us about Himself in new ways, again and again. The way He calls us each by name, makes all things new and sets our feet to walk a new and different road, accompanied by His grace and mercy. Our road experience may be full of potholes at times, but we can choose to remember that God is at work for our good.
Remembering all God’s provision, all His protection, all the ways His hands are weaving together a better story than we could ask or think, can be the catalyst that draws us deeper into trust. Even the heartbreaks we experience might serve to fashion in us a more whole and tender heart, as He slowly and carefully heals our wounds. Our failures often serve to bring more profound humility and understanding of others into our lives, reminding us of our humanity; we all struggle. Our questions and unknowns might slowly develop into a more confident trust as we remember the God who keeps His promises to Israel and to us.
Maybe we’ve been collecting and carrying our memories, our answered prayers, our Ebenezers, and our souvenirs all along, and we simply need to take some time to go back and look through our collection. To grow deeper in our faith, and to validate for ourselves who God is, we need to remember who He has always been so that, going forward, we can trust who He’ll always be. As we say, “…thus far the Lord has helped us,” we declare His faithfulness to us and also to those around us. The key word, “se souvenir.” Remember.
In his book, Stones of Remembrance, Daniel Amen says: “Memory enables us to bring the joys, dreams and lessons of yesterday into today. As we recall God’s faithfulness, we remain centered and growing, and we move forward with a sense of purpose. Memory allows us to keep our loved ones close, even when they are far away. It assures us that our personal history and experiences matter—that we have something valuable to teach the generations to come. This is the way God designed our minds to work—to remember. It’s been that way from the very beginning.”
I hope you’ll take the time to reflect on your present “state of soul;” review your collection of memories and events that come to mind – your SOUVENIRS – and remember the goodness of God in your life. This can be a rich and assuring time of prayerful gratitude.
Perhaps this is a season of uncertainty, and your souvenirs can bring you to a restful place of hopeful trust in God’s plan for the future. Write out your prayer to God.
There may be some souvenirs that bring painful memories. Perhaps one of the rocks in your collection is a deep wound, or a tombstone with the name of a loved one inscribed upon it.
If you choose to revisit those souvenirs with God, may you receive the comfort and love of
the Spirit of God, who sees you and is with you.
If you don’t have a tangible collection of Ebenezers, perhaps you’d like to consider starting one. Using stones or something else you can physically see and touch, you might write a date or keyword that will bring to mind the memory you wish to keep. You might arrange them in a basket as a public display of God’s faithfulness to you personally or as a family.
As we revisit our souvenirs, both precious and painful, let us also remember that we have a God who knows us better than we know ourselves, loves us more than we can imagine, and will be with us all of our days. May our souvenirs be treasured reminders.
“My past, O Lord, to Your mercy. My present to Your love. My future to Your providence.” Padre Pío
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