Posted by: Mike Willoughby | September 14, 2010


My family enjoys a rich heritage of story-telling passed down at least from my Grandparents’ generation.  I have no doubt that the tradition of relating the lore of my family actually extends back generations before.  Much of my connectedness to my family comes from the countless stories that my grandparents on both sides of my family told me when I was young.  My Grandpa Willoughby, my Grandpa Craig and my Grandpa Yeager (yes, three Grandpas – I am blessed) were expert story-tellers and through their well-crafted family tales, I was exposed to a tapestry of American frontier history, farm and ranch ethic and family victories and defeats.  Most importantly, they exposed me to a vibrant faith – not the kind of faith that is like a family crest over the mantle – but the kind of faith that colors your existence and permeates your identity.  I am a product of that rich heritage.

Story-telling has always been part of God’s plan for passing heritage and faith from one generation to the next.  The prophet Joel writes in Joel 1:3, 

Hear this, you elders;
   give ear, all inhabitants of the land!
Has such a thing happened in your days,
   or in the days of your fathers?
Tell your children of it,
   and let your children tell their children,
   and their children to another generation.

The elders in my family were serious about this responsibility to make sure the children knew about praise-worthy deeds of the Lord that had impacted their lives and the lives of their fathers.  That responsibility passed down to my parents who have upheld the tradition by re-telling the stories to my children along with the new stories of praise-worthy and not so praise-worthy deeds of their father and uncle.  As with my grandparents, my parents relate the stories of the “good ole days” when they were raising their family and the various deeds and misdeeds of their children packaged with the inevitable “moral of the story.”  This most frequently happens around the dinner table during family gatherings in what my friend Richard Beasley calls “teachable moments.”  Teachable moments are those everyday occurrences where you can catch your kids off-guard and teach them a lesson when they’re not expecting it.  I’m sure my kids aren’t expecting a lesson in respect for authority or the consequences of sin when they hear the story when their Nano almost killed her oldest son for sneaking off to the Seven-Eleven against direct orders.  However, amidst the funny story of kid torture, the moral lesson is present.  I think this is what Moses had in mind when he wrote these instructions in Deuteronomy 6:4-9,

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

My kids probably cringe at the thought, but even now Kristal and I are preparing to receive the story-telling baton from our parents and we relish the thought of passing our active faith on to the next generation.  Just think how much fun our grandkids will have as they learn about honesty while hearing the “Dr. Pepper on the carpet story” or the “BB gun and the tractor window story” from their Grandfather.  They will learn about God’s providential care when they hear the “Dr. Phil and the mustang story” and they will learn about perseverance through trial when they hear about the “JV junior year story” from their Grandmother.  When we walk, when we talk, when we lie down – that is our commitment to the next generation.

Join me in making that commitment.  You have stories to tell!

Until next week,

Meet me at the intersection!

Previous Intersections Articles
Still Spitting into the Wind Celebrating a New Work Ethic My Word is My Bond


  1. I continue to be amazed at what we learn from our grandparents. On Monday afternoon, my 92 year old grandmother told me a story about my then 2 year old father would comically try to say ‘Carrigan Ornamental Ironworks’ when asked where his father worked. What a precious slice of life to hear our grandparents relate stories of faith, experiences, work and life in general. The stories are too numerous to count and are priceless, period. You mentioned that the 3 Willoughby boys would cringe thinking about how you and Kristal would be looking forward to taking the story-telling baton from your parents, I’m sure mine cringe gleefully as well.

  2. This article was fun, but it also reminded me that it is up to God to take those “teachable moments” and get results. Believe me I was not thinking about teachable moments when I couldn`t find you that day. It was more “If I find you and you aren`t hurt I will personally see that you feel some hurt”—-big time!!! I am grateful that God took that angry/scared message inflected on your bottom and made a teachable moment that would continue to teach years later.

    I also remember many times your Dad and I planned teachable moments that didn`t get the results we had hoped. Those times God seemed more interested that we would have a teachable moment. One of those times was when we drew a line in the sand on your participation in a Christmas school program. We did listen to God and he blessed us over and over.

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