Letters to My Friend -


What Heritage Are You Leaving Them?

By Mary E. Stephens
May 2023

Psalm 16:5-6 The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.

In honor of Mother's Day I was thinking that I would post something From Mom's Collection since I haven't posted anything there for awhile. As I was poking through my file folder with loose pages and bits I began to appreciate again how much my mom loved poetry. A majority of what I have in her collection is poetry.

Both of my parents taught me to love poetry as I was growing up. My dad quoted poetry to us from the time we were kids - still does sometimes. :-)  He also would read poems in church services occasionally. He loves old hymns so much he once traded The Treasury of David by Spurgeon for an antique Methodist hymnal.

My mom collected poems more than she quoted them or read them out loud to us. She also loved hymns and songs. She, in turn, had inherited her interest in poetry from her mother who always enjoyed a well-written poem with something worthwhile to say. Gramma had a number of poems she could quote from memory.

When I got to thinking about how Mom had instilled a love of poetry in me, I began to think about all the examples I had at hand. As you can see in the picture, I have quite a few things from her that contain poems, parts of poems, and the words to songs she liked.

The antique book is a birthday book from when she was a little girl and each day of the year has a snippit of a poem or a quote, and space to write in your friends' and family's names.

The gray book - The Best Loved Poems of the American People - was one that I begged off of her when I was in my teens, I think. She let me have it, and I enjoyed reading in it from time to time. Also, as you can see, I used it to press leaves and rose petals.

The blank book where she wrote in mostly songs, is something she started in her 40s or 50s. She didn't do much with it so it's mostly empty still.

The loose pages on the bottom came from years ago, probably before I was born and maybe some afterwards. They were in a ring binder where she had glued in bits and pieces she cut from church papers, bulletiens, and such - mostly poems. There are a couple excerpts from a poem by Annie Johnson Flint on the right page here - something that rejoices my heart, as you might guess if you have visited my page of Miss Annie's poems. :-)

Thinking about these treasures that my mother left me, my mind wandered into thinking about what some people today think they need to give their children.

I remember a young father once talking to my dad about how he wanted to give his son a better life than he had had. If I remember correctly, I think he was offended at his pastor for how he had preached on giving. I don't know whether the pastor had been biblical in what he said or not, but the young father didn't like it because it interfered with his plans. He said that if he could afford to buy his son metal cars to play with instead of plastic, he didn't see anything wrong with that. Giving his son something better than he had seemed like a good thing to him.

The problem is, that isn't the biblical goal or objective for a Christian parent. In fact, one of the earmarks of Christianity is supposed to be that we are content with less of this world's goods. 1 Timothy 6:6-8 But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

Giving your kids good gifts, isn't an evil thing. Jesus talked about this.

Matthew 7:9-11 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

The thing here is, though, that the child is asking for food - bread and fish - not better quality toys or trips to Disney World or super hero pajamas or an iPhone or a college education. (Ouch.) Food is a basic necessity of life. Good food is a good gift according to Jesus Christ.

Sadly, parents sometimes get really caught up (dare I say ensared?) by the deceitfulness of this world, and they end up thinking that their kids "need" a lot of things that really aren't going to count one dot in eternity. I'm not saying that you shouldn't do nice things for your kids. But, I really think that all of us who have the opportunity to pass things on to others need to thoughtfully consider what really matters, what really counts.

This collection of poems - many of them Christian - from my mom, is of far more value to me now than my memories of trips to Disneyland. These poems have helped me and fed my soul and encouraged me and made me laugh and inspired my mind in good ways more than those fun Disney days ever did. (THINK About that, dear Christian who is obsessed with Disney.) Furthermore, these poems have started to feed and help others as I've shared them on the internet.

My mom had no way of knowing that this would ever happen. She might have guessed that one of us might enjoy her poem collections one day. She might have hoped that we would. But she could little guess how far some of them would go in reaching others outside her children.

Chrisitian mama, what are you leaving your children? What are you putting your heart and soul into that will be passed on to them or instilled in their minds and hearts? Is it worldly pleasures - music, T.V., movies, books, etc.? Is it a lust for more - more house, more travel, more clothes, more money, more education,  etc.? Is it priorities that aren't God's priorities - sports, education, good jobs, hobbies, comfortable living, better health, etc.? Or are you leaving them with things that will make them better in God's work? Are you showing them how to be a part of His church and His good purpose by how you live? Are you fortifiying their souls with things that will outlast this very temporary life? Are you giving them things that will help them through the tough times in life, the times when money and education and entertainment and the world's "good life" won't answer for their souls' deepest needs?

Christian Grandma, what about you? What are you leaving to your children and grandchildren? Is spending thousands of dollars on a trip to Disney World or Dollywood or even some natural wonder more important to you than sending them on a missions trip with someone who is actually doing a good work for the Lord? Do you think of ways you can build them up in the faith, point them to Christ, give them tools that will outlast you and help them their whole lives? Or are you more interested in making happy memories about you and your amazing Christmas decorations and cooking and swimming pool and ATVs and fireworks and whatever else? Will they think of godly words of wisdom and heartfelt conversations about the important things of life? Will they remember discussions about scripture and hearing you read it? Will they think of fervent prayers when they think of you? Ah, there's nothing of this earth more precious than those things. Some of the earthly things may not be bad, but they are not the best!

Christian aunt or friend of younger children, what about you? None of us are exempt in passing on good things to those who come after us, even if we don't have children of our own. What are we building into the lives of our nieces and nephews, our younger siblings or cousins perhaps, our friends' children, the kids at church or in our neighborhoods? Are we just the fun aunt or friend? Or are we leaving godly counsel and Christ-like compassion, books and music and things that will help them learn to be more like Jesus? Are we leaving things that will remain when the wood, hay, and stubble have been burned up?

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

Oh, sisters, let's focus on the things that really count for eternity, the things that build up the young ones in this precious faith, things that help them on their way and keep them in the good fight of faith. Better toys, better houses, better educations, more exciting trips and entertainment - these are all so empty at the end of the day. Think of what Paul wrote to Timothy about his grandmother and mother.

2 Timothy 1:5 When 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.

2 Timothy 3:14-15 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

What a goodly heritage these ladies left in Timothy's life! What an excellent example they are for us still.

Here is a poem that I loved from my youth. I don't remember where I first read it, perhaps in a school book or one of my mom's books of poetry. It is not a Christian poem, but it expresses very clearly what I am trying to say here.

The Bridge Builder

An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”

By Will Allen Dromgoole

What bridges over pitfalls are you preparing for those younger ones who are coming after you, dear sister in Christ? What good things that will bring glory to God are you instilling in those young lives? What heritage are you leaving them? Let's make the best things, the things remembered and valued most, be the ones that count for Christ for eternity.

background and graphics by Mary Stephens
vintage graphic: unknown source