The Words of the Stephens Family

Take Time To Make a Ceremony

Jim Stephens
February 2002

This opinion piece was first published in Bloomington’s The Pantagraph, under the title "From the Pulpit" in the "Beliefs and Values" section.

I'm going to resist the temptation to weigh in on the national debate on adultery and its consequences and instead share some thoughts on how to improve the relationships and memories in your own family.

Most of my life I have never been interested in "pomp and circumstance". Ceremonies, for me, were a lot of wasted time and effort making a big deal out of a small event.

However, as I reflect back over my life, I've changed my opinion.

All that I have left of my life, all the places I traveled, all the things that I did, all the people that I have known, all that's left is just memories.

Some memories are stronger than others, but all the memories exist for me only as pictures in my mind. As I recall those pictures, I also recall the emotions of the experiences, the joys, the sorrows, the profound insights, the regrets, even some insignificant moments that were somehow so poignant.

If the picture in my mind is weak or faded, then the emotions are also faded and dull.

If I string together the memories and make a movie of my life, I'm somewhat disappointed. It certainly wouldn't be a "blockbuster hit".

Most of the exciting parts and memorable parts of the movie of my life are those "special" moments when I shared a deep experience with someone else. Often that event sticks out as a lasting memory because we at the time made it special and made a "big deal" out of it, even if it really wasn't that big a deal after all.

In our family many a weekend has slipped past us when we didn't make the effort to do anything special with our kids. That weekend is lost forever. The times when we did do something out of the ordinary are captured forever for us in a shared memory.

Ceremonies, celebrations and traditions are some of the real "stuff" that life is made of. That's the wisdom that I'd like to share today.

When you celebrate an otherwise ordinary event, you elevate it to a valuable memory. You create another link in the bond of love that encircles the people with whom you shared the experience.

Make lots of ceremonies in your life.

Make family traditions. These are an external representation of the love you have for each other. These can also be a wonderful representation of your love for your God. Traditions have value because they bond people together in a common experience. It connects their lives to higher meaning and purpose and value.

Love is all about connecting to each other. Give and take in a tradition that is repeated over and over develops a stronger and stronger bond of love.

Prayer is a shared experience. You can even make your offerings and tithes a ceremony to share with your children. It will help them understand the value.

In the Bible, many leaders rose early in the morning to communicate with God. In our family, we get up every Sunday morning to pray at 5:00 am. We make pledges to God for the coming week and we offer ourselves to Him. This makes us feel special, like we're the only ones in Bloomington talking to God during that time.

Even when the children were babies we would bring them to this prayer. Often we had to bribe them with donuts, but it worked. In fact, it led to another family tradition of having donuts on Sunday mornings.

As we are fast approaching the holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas most of us have especially fond memories of past family holidays.

Traditions and celebrations not only carry on the bonds of love, but they are actually building blocks for continuing the goodness in families and the goodness in our society. They help us discern the eternal from the profane.

Let's resolve to make our holidays this year extra special by achieving a new level of love and service. And also let's each make some new celebration that we'll remember forever.

Heaven can always use the extra help when the world is having a crisis.

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