Remembering My Heritage

Phil Congdon, New Braunfels Bible Church, Aug 8, 2015

In a few hours, I will leave for a week in Oregon, the state in which I spent the first 20-some years of my life.  I always love visits to the Northwest: The natural beauty is stunning – snow-capped mountains, white-water rivers, rugged coastline, and everywhere pine forests and lush farmland.  Some might call it ‘God’s country,’ although the ethical and moral decline in recent years would suggest otherwise.

This trip, however, is going to be a bittersweet one.  About 1950, my parents bought a three-acre plot in east Portland that had a small two-story brick house, a barn and chicken-house, and one bathroom.  Since then, with minor changes (fences, a playhouse, turning a separate garage into sleeping space), time has stood still.  The trees have all grown taller, and some have died.  The house has seen 60+ years, with 13 children and 60-some grandchildren running the halls, exploring in the back pasture, climbing trees.

Congdon Phil siblings

During its ‘prime,’ these three acres not only were home to all us children (picture at right shows all living children at my mother’s memorial service last year; from left, front row: Rebecca, Marianne, Rhoda, Ruth, and Rachel; back row: Mark, Brad, Rob, Phil, Jon, Jim).  We also raised chickens, rabbits, and other animals.  I milked a cow – by hand – every morning and night, from the time I was in seventh grade, through high school.  I fed goats, pigs, ducks, geese, and other animals I can’t remember!  Oregon’s winters are dark, cold, and wet…and I remember chores on those nights.  Summers were beautiful, and I remember playing ball with my brothers into the night, picnics in the back yard, and picking cherries off the trees in the orchard.  We occasionally slept in the hayloft in the barn, and built rafts to float on the pond at the bottom of the property.

But of all the activities and events I remember, one eclipses them all.  Virtually every night, we had family devotions.  This ‘event’ included my mother reading to us (Little House on the Prairie, Chronicles of Narnia, etc.), then reading from the Bible, then singing (we each sang a solo, or played the piano for everyone to sing together), and prayer (youngest to the oldest).  I learned that God was the most important part of my parents’ lives.  I learned to respect and obey the Bible.  My parents lived out their faith in front of us, and let us watch.  And when I walk those three acres for the last time this week, a thousand memories will echo through my mind, but one surpassing impression will remain: What God wrought on those three acres is a heritage that remains strong to this day, and will affect generations to come.  I have been blessed beyond words!

What we all learn – if we pay attention through life – that everything in this world turns to dust…but what is done for the Lord, lasts forever.  The psalmist says this (Psalm 103.14-18):

For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children— with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

We spend a lot of time and money on our homes…but not-so-much on our spiritual heritage.  And yet, how we live for the Lord, and what we do for Him, will outlast all the ‘real estate’ we own!  As I visit my childhood home for the last time, I will thank God for parents who left a rich spiritual heritage for all of us fortunate enough to grow up on those three acres.