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FIRST-PERSON: A faith family tree

GARLAND, Texas (BP)–Many a Christian takes delight in being genealogically proficient. Often a person can speel off the names of his or her ancestors for six, seven or even more generations.

We readily spin tales about a great-great-grandfather who might have been an aide to George Washington or a cousin in a long-ago line who arrived in America on the Mayflower.

Such details are fun and rewarding; they’re important for future generations to know.

But do those of us who are followers of Christ ever take the time to preserve our spiritual genealogy as well?

I asked myself this question as I prepared a new cookbook/family history book titled, “Way Back in the Country.” It traces recipes from six generations of my East Texas farm kin and the stories behind them. It’s designed to spur others to use recipes as a means of preserving family history and to demonstrate how simply this can be done.

But while chronicling antics of my mother and her two red-haired sisters as they grew up in rural Delta County, Texas, and sharing recipes that they dined on for Sunday dinners and box suppers, the issue hit me: “What details about our family’s spiritual heritage should future generations know about us as well?”

This spawned related questions, such as, “How did regular church attendance become a staple in my family? How did my mother and my aunts become devoted women of prayer? What was church-going like in the days before superhighways and paved roads? How did God’s Word become the authority for day-to-day, even moment-to-moment decisions in our lives?” Shouldn’t my children, and generations following them, also know these details?

Uncovering some of these answers was easier for me than it might be for some. Fortunately, my mother, at 91, and my aunt, at 96, are still on this earth for me to query. For other background, I consulted notes I took on long, Sunday afternoon drives when our relatives rode over the now-deserted country lanes of their childhood and told colorful yarns that made those days come alive.

In the midst of all the “begats,” I realized I had also heard a tale of my mother’s paternal grandmother, Margaret Miller, who knelt beside her bed every night in prayer. When this grandmother visited in their home, my mother and her sisters tiptoed by the door of her room, looked in and gazed on this consistent scene. Grandma Miller had been widowed at 42, with seven children to rear. Her earnest pleas to God saw her through; her grandchildren remembered her nightly role-modeling and, in turn, taught their children who, in turn, have taught their children, “Prayer changes things.”

I learned about my mother’s baptism in the “River Jordan,” an outdoor cotton gin pool that became serviceable for this function, and what a “new creature in Christ” she felt herself to be when she emerged from those waters and climbed up the nearby slope of grass. I learned about how rain that muddied the country roads and made them impassable didn’t stop her family’s churchgoing; this Baptist family simply worshiped on muddy Sundays at the nearby Methodist church until the weather cleared.

I realized I could add a few heritage details of my own. In our family of four, we had made a travel game out of singing our individual “salvation songs” — invitation hymns the congregation sang on the day each of us made our public professions of faith in church. My husband and our daughter both claimed the popular “Just as I Am”; mine was the time-honored favorite “Only Trust Him”; our son’s was “I Hear Thy Welcome Voice,” perhaps one of the most beautiful in all of the hymnal.

What else could be part of one’s family’s faith genealogy? Much-loved Bible verses, stories of times of God’s faithfulness and comfort in trials, the names of people who led family members to the Lord and who discipled them later. Names of pastors and other church leaders who were influential. All of these are wonderful additions to a written family tree.

What about late-in-life Christians or people whose families don’t have this same legacy of faith I describe? Your heritage and line can start with you. Record your personal faith history, to which you add details as you establish your Christian home and have faith memories to preserve.

Far too soon, loved ones who hold the keys to family stories pass from the scene. With tape recorder or pen and tablet in hand, let the questions roll, but don’t forget to write down the most important facts of all: those of faith’s role in the family. Generations yet unborn and not even thought about yet will thank you, thank you, thank you.
Kay Moore’s new book, “Way Back in the Country,” is available from the publisher, Hannibal Books, at www.hannibalbooks.com as well as Christian and secular bookstores. Moore lives in Garland, Texas.

    About the Author

  • Kay Moore