Let yourselves be built, as living stone, into a spiritual temple.
--I Peter 2:5
I was nine when my parents moved to Meteor Ranch, a Christian Camp and Conference Center in Upper Lake, California. One of the things Dad did while we were there was to build a fifty-foot rock wall at the end of the swimming pool, and it was a lovely hot summer day when he made the stone plaque to be set into it. My two sisters and I watched as he first tried one thing and then another to create the letters in a frame of drying cement.
“Let yourselves be built, as living stones, into a spiritual temple.”
The plaque was duly installed and remained for more than fifty years after our departure.
At Dad’s death forty-one years later, in 2003, I used photography of that wall for his funeral brochure; something about the wall and plaque has always comforted me, and challenged me. How does one become a spiritual temple?
Fifty years later my mother faded into the first signs of dementia. She could hardly see or hear and shuffled around the house looking for things. A far cry from the woman who’d loved the many welfare cases the ranch once fostered: young boys, old men, former alcoholics. For years after we left, she kept up a faithful correspondence, and I marveled at her dedication.
A few years ago I went down to the ranch and with my son's help brought Dad’s plaque home. I asked Mum if she'd like to have it.
"Where did you get that?"
"Meteor Ranch?” she asked, agitated. “I don’t remember this. Did we live there?”
"Yes, and Dad made this for the stone wall."
What happened to her memories of the people she’d loved, whose lives she’d influenced?
“You hauled it all the way up here?”
I don’t know if she remembers dad’s work or not. From time to time, perhaps. And while I'd known it had been a gamble, I was still disappointed that the plaque wasn't quite the gift I’d hoped it would be. But reading the words again and remembering the day Dad had created each letter, my sisters and I watching, wondering what they would spell, I suddenly understood. My mother was a spiritual temple, not only at the ranch but throughout her life, befriending the lost and loving them when very few would.
My gift to her suddenly became hers to me.
Prayer: Thank you for the living example of my mother’s love for those we tend to ignore. May we all be built, as living stone, into a spiritual temple.