I read this morning from II Timothy the second chapter. Paul writes to Timothy: “…I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” It made me think of the testimony my parents and grandparents left behind them–the unfeigned faith that dwelt in them. And I’m tremendously grateful for it.
I know my grandma and grandpa must have done other things and told me other stories, but I have a few indelible memories of them. I remember my grandpa sitting in the living room in a rocking chair with a tattered Bible on the table right beside him. There were things in his life that looking back as an adult I might criticize, but that picture has stayed with me. I remember sitting beside my grandma in church service while she held her bible and followed the message and I sorted through her purse. I must have been four or five.
I hardly remember my father’s father at all. He died when I was in kindergarten. But I remember my Ma and Pappy. They raised my dad from the time he was tiny because his mother had tuberculosis and died not too long after he was born. Pop Bear hired Edith and Wesley Dodge, Ma and Pappy, to care for my dad. Ma Dodge was a Nazarene minister in a day when there were very few women preachers. My only memory of her is in ‘modest apparel and sobriety.’ She and Pappy always had a Bible on the table between them. They read it and they lived by it. Because they lived far out in the country and traveling was a production for them they weren’t in church services very often, sometimes going to a little mission Ma had founded in town. Usually they read and prayed at their kitchen table. They listened to religious programs on the radio, laying their hands on the square box when the preacher prayed.
Ma had sugar diabetes and eventually developed gangrene in her foot. She wouldn’t see a doctor but died at our home after several weeks of suffering. Some people might see that as a failure on God’s part, but I saw it as an example of her devotion to Him and His blessing. He took her home to her reward. It was what she had prepared for her whole life.
Pappy lived with us for several years until Mom wasn’t able to care for him. (He wasn’t sick, but my mother began with the early stages of Alzheimer’s) For the last months or years of his life he lived in a home. I remember his example of patience and long suffering better than anything else. He would sit on his bed and read his bible for hours and if we said something to him he would look up with the Bible closed around his forefinger to mark his place.
My mom and dad raised me in the Church. They were always working for the Lord. As a young woman, my mother lived with sister Grace Henry who was pastor of the congregation in New Philadelphia. Ohio. She helped sister Henry in her home and led the youth group in the church. That’s where she met my father.
I have a collection of stories they told us about the early years of their marriage—work in the church, visits to other congregations, trips to camp meeting, funny stories of the hazards of a young marriage. If I look through the collections of photographs today, I can find dozens of photos of them at camp meeting, including many pictures of the early ministry of the Church, but also photos of men and women I grew up with, men and women I knew them as examples in godliness.
My mother had several little books of children’s stories. The one I remember best was one where the illustrations were all in silhouettes. She read to us from them all the time. Later she and dad bought a set of Christian story books called ‘The Children’s Hour.’ There were two sets of five or six volume swith real life stories of children living for the Lord. I still have them. I read them to my kids. But I don’t have any grandchildren now to read them. When my grandkids were old enough to listen, they were 2000 miles away. I used some of them as lessons for Children’s Church, but now they are on the shelf. Maybe I can pass them on to one of nieces or nephews…..
When my brother and I were probably five, six, seven… about there, my mother took over the youth group in our congregation. While she directed the youth, my dad took Buster and me to a small Sunday school classroom and entertained us with bible stories that he illustrated on a chalkboard with colored chalk as he went along. Later he gave the same presentations in children’s church.
I never realized the heritage I had until the last few years. And Paul’s words to Timothy brought it back to mind this morning. There are many blessings in life. God bestows them on the just and the unjust, but this unfeigned faith that was passed to me through my parents and my grandparents is the greatest blessing. I’m thankful for it.