It began with a discovery. The discovery prompted a blog post. The blog post caught the eye of an editor. The result is my soon-to-be-released devotional book, “Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith.” The following post is adapted from “Heirloom.” It describes that century-old letter and prayer that challenged me to be purposeful about spiritual legacy.
Heirloom Day One
I found the treasure while cleaning out a desk at my parents’ home. Stuffed in an old metal box, it shared the space with a pair of delicate, wire-rimmed spectacles and a small ledger that recorded regular savings of twenty-five cents a week. The letter, yellowed and fragile with age, was dated March 26, 1914. I struggled to read the faded ink. Addressed to Howell Adam Shouse, my great-grandfather on my mother’s side, it was written by his mother, Mary Dozier Shouse, more than a century ago.
Much of the news was what you’d expect—who’d been sick, who’d gotten married, who’d been to visit, and how she longed to see her “dear son.” But one particular paragraph brought me to tears:
Oh, how much I do pray for you every single morning and night. I pray mightily to the Lord that you Howell and your children may be convicted and converted and sanctified. Never a day do I miss. May God hear and answer my prayers.
In the apostle Paul’s letter to the Christians in Philippi, he recorded a similar prayer for their spiritual well-being. Paul loved these “spiritual children” and prayed for them constantly.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. Philippians 1:9-10, niv
Like Paul, Mary Dozier faithfully interceded on behalf of her descendants. This discovery thrilled me because I knew her prayers covered me too. Long before I was born, my great-great-grandmother prayed for me to have a saving, growing relationship with Jesus. The letter also challenged me to not just pray for the physical welfare of my loved ones, but to also faithfully lift prayers that matter for eternity.
Yes, I pray for the physical circumstances of my family. But I also pray for their spiritual needs and struggles. Maybe one day my great-great-granddaughter will find my prayer journal and be blessed when she discovers that I prayed for her.
Why a Book about Spiritual Legacy?
The Bible places great value on knowing our family history, specifically our spiritual roots. The stories of those who’ve come before us can strengthen and encourage our faith today. And by living intentionally for God today, we lay a spiritual foundation for those who come after us. (See also “God’s Design for Spiritual Legacy.”)
When our three children were growing up, my husband and I worked to encourage their faith. In hindsight, I see some gaps. We could have been more purposeful in some areas. Looking forward, I want to take advantage of every opportunity God give us with our grandchildren.
What legacy do you want to leave your children, grandchildren, and their children? The most valuable heirloom we can pass down is a legacy of faith. While we can’t believe for our children, we can teach them about our great God and create an atmosphere in our homes where trust in Him can flourish. We can tell our own stories, share God’s Word, and point them to Jesus.
This devotional book is designed to help you purposefully live today in ways that will leave a legacy of faith for your descendants. Heirloom ties the past to the future. Within these pages are fifty-two stories of people who’ve gone before us, how they lived, and who they worshiped. These stories, which come from families, history, and the Bible, reveal the seeds of our faith. The seeds that sprouted and took root, growing through the centuries to touch our lives today.
These stories of persevering faith exemplify biblical principles of spiritual legacy. Each devotion includes Scripture, questions for personal reflection, a prayer, and a practical legacy tip to help you build a spiritual heirloom your family will treasure. And for those of you who love digging into the stories of your own family’s past, there’s a bonus genealogy research tip.
Let’s Talk: Today you’re reading your ancestors’ stories. Tomorrow, your descendants will be reading your story. What will you write? What do you want your life to exhibit for future generations?