of Saints and Legacies

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Dear Ones!

Did you know that the good Saint really did not rid Ireland of all of those nasty snakes? I was crushed to discover this fallacy. I was on Slate.com and discovered this little gem by a gentleman named Dave Plotz:

“The Irish have celebrated their patron saint with a quiet religious holiday for centuries, perhaps more than 1,000 years. It took the United States to turn St. Patrick’s Day into a boozy spectacle. Irish immigrants first celebrated it in Boston in 1737 and first paraded in New York in 1762. By the late 19th century, the St. Patrick’s Day parade had become a way for Irish-Americans to flaunt their numerical and political might. It retains this role today. he facts about St. Patrick are few. Most derive from the two documents he probably wrote, the autobiographical Confession and the indignant Letter to a slave-taking marauder named Coroticus. Patrick was born in Britain, probably in Wales, around 385 A.D. His father was a Roman official. When Patrick was 16, seafaring raiders captured him, carried him to Ireland, and sold him into slavery. The Christian Patrick spent six lonely years herding sheep and, according to him, praying 100 times a day. In a dream, God told him to escape. He returned home, where he had another vision in which the Irish people begged him to return and minister to them: “We ask thee, boy, come and walk among us once more,” he recalls in the Confession. He studied for the priesthood in France, then made his way back to Ireland.

He spent his last 30 years there, baptizing pagans, ordaining priests, and founding churches and monasteries. His persuasive powers must have been astounding: Ireland fully converted to Christianity within 200 years and was the only country in Europe to Christianize peacefully. Patrick’s Christian conversion ended slavery, human sacrifice, and most intertribal warfare in Ireland. (He did not banish the snakes: Ireland never had any. Scholars now consider snakes a metaphor for the serpent of paganism. Nor did he invent the Shamrock Trinity. That was an 18th-century fabrication.)”

Fascinating, huh? Now I have just cause to revere the lad. I wonder why the least noble of all rumors hang around these saints when they do things like convert an entire country. Truly, we all should leave such a lovely legacy.

Have you ever wondered what kind of legacy you will leave behind?

There was a time when I was obsessed with this very issue. I come from a broken home. My parents don’t particularly like to recall the past. My mom was 16 when she and dad married. He was 18. They struggled. And their lives before each other were no picnic either.

I grew up starved to hear their stories. I think this was one reason that I became a bookworm. I needed someone’s stories if I was to have none of my own.

Occasionally, I tried to take matters into my own hands. My paternal grandfather lived to be 100 years old. After his death, I interviewed his children and put together a book of their memories of him. My father was the only one of nine siblings who refused to contribute. Some people just don’t talk. This must be respected, I suppose. But I was still one of those children who grew up convinced that I had been adopted.

I remember a party that Jeff and I attended early in our marriage. The hostess was showing me around her house. On one of her walls she had a beautiful quilt proudly displayed. As she told me the story of her quilt, the love in her voice set a tiny ache inside of me. My admiration must have been obvious, because she then made the observation: “Things mean a lot to you, don’t they?”

I was dumfounded. I hadn’t anything to hold that statement up against. No family heirlooms, no cheap sentimental objects, not even a story handed down through the generations. Well, not a happy story anyway.

It must seem silly to you that I would mourn a past that I never had. But I did. For a time anyway. And then I had children of my own and I began to focus on creating stories for them.

Then, during a church function, I had a wonderful talk with one of our senior members. This gentlewoman turned out to be the wife of the founder of our church. She relayed the story of how our church was born, with such joy, that I felt blessed by the telling. How special to hear the history of the building in which my children were learning to love Jesus.

Then I was shown some pictures of the groundbreaking for an addition to the original building. I had looked at these pictures a million times but had never really seen them. Familiar faces were pointed out to me. Faces that sing in our choir and still sit in our pews. Faces that are now framed by glorious crowns of white hair.

As I looked at the images of joy filled faces in the pictures, a familiar ache began to gnaw inside of me. I wanted to sit at the feet of these precious people and hear them tell how it felt to be there. What were they thinking? What were their dreams for our church?

I reached out and gingerly touched a face in the picture. That’s when it hit me: This was my heritage! These were my family members. These stories belonged to me as well. I can’t explain the wonder that I felt at that realization. At that moment, another truth was revealed to me in a way I had never experienced it before: I have an incredibly rich heritage. One that begins with my heavenly Father. And, wow, does He have some stories to tell!

Today, when I read Bible stories to my boys, I am sharing with them part of my history. These stories are the beginning of my story. They belong to me. And they belong to you. They are a part of us, dear ones.

I grew up believing that to look back was a waste of time. But, oh, God wants us to remember! He wants us to remember the good times and the difficult times. And what’s more, He wants us to share these stories so that they will not be forgotten.

When I look back in faith, I see clearly the rich heritage I have to offer my sons. It’s a heritage of loving the Lord. It’s a heritage of His faithfulness even in the darkest of times. When I look back in faith, I see His hand guiding me every step of the way. Even stories of sorrow have become valuable to me, because in them His glory is revealed .

Every trial in my life I stand up before Him like a stone. And I remember.

We are called to a rich heritage, my friend. Let us tell our children about His faithfulness in our lives. He is faithful, Beloved. Let us never forget that.

“…In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”—Joshua 4:6-7

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