How The Family Altar Helped Me
By L. E. Tallakson
I was only a boy of ten at the time, but I remember it well. Our church had made the establishment of family altars its main project for the whole year. Both the pastor and the Sunday School superintendent had talked to the Sunday School about family devotions that day. They urged us young folks to go home and ask Mother and Dad if we couldn’t start. That’s why I came home that Sunday and asked Dad before I even got into the house:
“Say, Dad, can we have a family altar in our home?”
Dad and Mother were good church people. They always went – and not only that; they really tried to live the Christian life in our home. But they never had a family altar.
I remember they had talked about it sometimes when the pastor had mentioned family devotions in a sermon. Always there had been some excuse. We were too busy; our family was hard to get together; Smiths and Olsons didn’t have it and they were good church people; the Swartz’s and Johnsons might think we were too religious; Dad didn’t think any of us could read well enough. So it had always been before.
This time it was different. Our church was making a special effort to get new altars started. I told Dad of the many families who had already responded and begun their daily devotions. Both Mom and Dad were surprised.
Something else made it different. There was a lot of loose and filthy talk, a lot of petty stealing in the neighborhood. Some bad gangs were going the rounds and almost all Christian parents were a little worried.
Dad called Mother aside that Sunday and they had a little talk that we couldn’t hear. After a while Dad turned to the three of us and said: “O.K., children, we’ll start our family altar tonight.”
It was about the happiest night in our family that I can remember. Once we had started, we had family devotions each day. It became so precious to all of us that the day wasn’t right if we didn’t have those minutes with God.
I Have a Home of My Own
The time came when all four of us children had left the home. Dad and Mom had their devotions together as long as they lived.
I have a home of my own. I’m in business for myself, too. As I sat at my desk today, I started thinking back about my childhood home – about Mother and Dad – about our family altar. All of a sudden I realized how much that altar meant in our lives.
These are some of my thoughts: somehow it changed Mother and Dad. They were always fine people – but they became finer. They became better church folk than ever. They were more kind to one another, and to us children in the home. I remember Mother saying she was going to quit “gossiping” about the neighbors. I remember Dad talking with his business associate down at the store and saying he thought “Christian principles” should be put into their business.
I think today of the effect it had on us children. It made us realize that God wasn’t only in church, but that He was also in the home. We grew up to know that God meant a lot to Mother and Dad. We became considerate of our parents and of one another. We didn’t quarrel and fight as much.
I remember personally how my faith was strengthened as I watched Dad read God’s Word and heard Mother pray as we joined in the Lord’s prayer. When I was 19 I got into a rather bad crowd. I knew it was that strong home training which helped me say “No” to the things they wanted me to do – and finally to find better company.
That family altar was a real “cleansing fire” for all of us.
When I married Betty, I proposed we start having family devotions. She was more than willing and we have it every day. I suppose if Dad had said “No” that day when I came home from Sunday School, Betty and I wouldn’t have our family altar today.
There’s a tear on my cheek as I think back about my fine dad and my sweet mother. The most precious, hallowed memory I have of them is with their heads bowed at family devotions. I guess that picture will help make me a better man as long as I live.
Too Bad About Jim
Things didn’t go so well for Jim. We went to Sunday School together and were in the same Bible study class. But Jim had no backing in his home. His folks made the fatal mistake of thinking Jim should “do what they said, but not what they did.” They seldom went to church. They had wild parties in their home that were a disgrace to a home with little tots growing up. His folks thought they just had to have their liquor and their fun-even if it would hurt the lives of their children.
They never caught the vision my folks did – the vision of little folk being a great spiritual responsibility; the vision of being willing to do everything to make their home setting wholesome and fine.
Well – the inevitable happened. Jim quit church after a while. He started traveling with a bad neighborhood gang. When the temptation of drink and gambling came along, he didn’t have the strength to say “No.” His spiritual and moral muscles were weak because they had never been built up in a Christian home. Too bad about Jim! He paid the bill.
Jane’s Folks Made a Mistake
Jane had a much better chance than Jim. Her folks were good church members and respected people in the community. In fact, Jane had a good home.
But her folks made a mistake. They somehow didn’t realize that there isn’t any good home which can’t be made a better home by the family altar. They didn’t realize what a “plus” would be added to the spiritual life and moral stamina of their children by this daily talk with God. So they never started their family altar.
They talked about it, put it off, talked some more. They never came to the point where they said, “Tonight we start our family devotions!”
This was unfortunate. Jane never became the mature, consecrated Christian girl she might have been. She married a nice fellow, but he too was lukewarm spiritually. The home they have established has only a loose tie with the church. Their children are missing out on the daily walk with God.
It’s unfortunate that Jane’s parents didn’t make up their mind to have a family altar. It would have meant so much to their children, their grandchildren and generations yet to come.
Why not try to get your church to establish altars in all homes, especially for the children’s sake?