The family album

My dear dad compiled not a “family album” – but the daddy of family albums. With his own card for pages, his own brass stems for spines, dates and names under each, places and events, and a book-rack “thing” in which they were arranged by year. It was a big book rack.

All of us, when we visited, tended to gravitate to the albums and pick a year. Our own children and my wife saw this chubby little lad with specs looking very young and very odd. With lots of funny brothers and sisters and friends. They saw their very young mum and dad before they were married. And then they saw themselves as wailing/smiling infants each growing older year by year.

Extended family was there, generations back were there. Current life (well – within a few weeks/months of current) was there.

There was boring stuff with grainy “who are they” page turning. There were screams of laughter at remembered funny afternoons. There were raised eyebrows at the fashions of yester-generations and times. There were so many reactions and responses to this one small family history. Time after time. Year after year. Every picture tells a story – and the stories were a very mixed bunch! Sometimes the viewing was muted. Other times it provoked raucous discussion and comment. Sometimes we all fell about laughing as the memories flowed. Sometimes there were tears and sadness at other memories.

My mum and dad their whole marriage also produced and circulated by post – and then by email – a fortnightly family letter. Sharing the doings of their daily life and family. Just because they wanted to. A couple of years ago I was given, by a family friend, a few original pages. They were ordinary moments – somehow gilded with gold as I touched the paper and print from 40+ years ago. My life and my brothers and sisters and mum and dad on that skinny thin paper and fading print.

This weekend someone compared the bible to a family album. He described it as being full of poems, songs, pictures, paintings and moments of daily living. Full of embarrassing moments and fun moments and sad moments. Poetry to be read as poetry should. Songs to be sung or winced over as songs are. Anecdotes to be giggled with or grimaced over. Daily snapshots of daily living to illuminate. Life and family as “life and family” all recorded for “the family”. A family album we return to in different moods, different ways and in different needs. A collection of memories and moments.

The comparison made a lot of sense to me.

Literal, figurative, pictorial, sad, happy, wise and boring. Just as families are. A collective memory. A collective thing. A family thing.

And just as families intertwine and merge, fall out and re-intertwine, re-merge keep emerging and evolving over generations – different yet connected – odd yet familiar – so too this “family album suggestion” touched something deep inside me.

Touched me enough to want to share the moment. Given to me by just another “family member” – a chap called John Bell – with you my brothers and sisters. It’s a family thing.


Greenbelt: and just one hour in a four day weekend. With: John Bell – just another brother …


26 thoughts on “The family album

  1. I really like that analogy of the Bible and a family album. It makes those Bible heros a bit more relatable. Their flaws become that more familiar yet their imperfections didn’t make them incapable. Highlights and low points of history compressed within the pages…our personal stories are no less significant to our Father….hmmmm


    • 🙂

      Thanks Lilka – yes and yes again. Then your final sentence caught my attention. Obvious – but not something I register day after day. Thank you for the “hmmmm…”


    • “we didn’t want to be in” – oh yes! That as well – all those moments of “do we have to?” when the camera was out. And all the years of enjoying those moments looking back!!



  2. Very good. We’ve recently been watching our old family movies. I will have to watch The Ten Commandments to carry your analogy to motion pictures. It is good to think of God and his Book as family, though. I like that.


    • Funny, Mark Myers, re: the Ten Commandments comment. I’ve thought about watching it, but I can no longer watch Charleton Heston movies – not since his “cold, dead hands,” sound bite with the NRA. Not so much Moses in my head anymore. :-/ I think I’ll stick to Son of God and Passion of the Christ for my “home movies.” 😉


    • Hiya Mark – old family movies! We have a bunch of “videos” now on dvd! I relate!! 🙂

      But the “Hollywood and family memories” films I so often find to be similar to a family wedding and one of those “professional photographer” pictures. The pictures are superb … gorgeous … perfect … but almost always lack that intimacy of “family moments” – too much posing, being told how to hold my chin(s), how to put my hands, etc. They get an ooh and an ahh – and then the fun starts when the slightly out of focus, giggly moment pictures come out.

      Back to the “family album” comment (John Bell talked for an hour, and the title was “What do we tell the children”) really touched something.

      Thank you!


  3. So glad you shared this awesome moment! I have always loved looking at pictures…they tell the stories of our lives. And how wonderful for your family member to connect the Bible to these albums! We are all part of His family 🙂


  4. Ah! John Bell at Greenbelt. One of my favourite speakers and my one and only favourite Christian Arts Festival. The event can build you up for years to come! I miss it. One of these years I hope to attend again. We thought about it this year. it didn’t go beyond the thought. Perhaps next year. I’m glad you brought it back into my consciousness through your post. And the family Bible. An album of pictures. Definitely. My Dad had a cine camera with which he filmed us. The films put on DVD are much treasured. There are still more to convert. We are more chaotic/ less organised than your family appear to be. Thanks for the nudge. Julia


    • Julia, my dad was very organised! 🙂

      Greenbelt was a new experience for me. Some thoughts … wonderful to see so many so happy and relaxed … wonderful to share in my god with so many others … great to hear thoughts not heard usually in the weekly routine … amused to hear (frequently) “it’s not Cheltenham though is it” … confused by the queuing in some areas and none in others … wowed by the “festival prices” everywhere … brought-up short that “God Stuff” doesn’t come cheap …. confirmed as one bemused by the “festival concept”. And curious to find a circular “band of innovative thinkers” – who seem to be lauded in a similar way to every other celeb.

      In other words – well worth going along! 🙂


      • I first went to Greenbelt in 1993 and 1994; then again in 2000 and 2002. No wonder I have itchy feet and feel overdue another visit. (Your mentioning Greenbelt caused me to look up the dates just mentioned.) There is so much going on it could be overwhelming. I learnt to be discerning and opt for a limited series of seminars and one or two musical events. I discovered and remember favourite speakers(and writers) and one or two singers who influence and shape my Christian outlook even years later. I still have the old cassette tapes which I listen to on occasions. For me it is a festival that continues to build me up. Julia


      • Our minister has been a Greenbelter – attendee and then increasingly involved in the running of a part – for many years (we were talking this week). It was he who caused me to go along and have a look initially. And your approach seems very sensible with hindsight. As does “stopping there” rather than going for a day. All of which leaves “preferences” both ways running around my brain. I have a sense the Lord is not done with me and Greenbelt yet.


        • I hope not. Although, you don’t have to like it. I guess it is courses for horses (whatever that saying means).
          (As it previously was at Cheltenham race course, the meaning has leapt out at me.)
          Before I attended Greenbelt I once went to Spring Harvest. I had a mixed reaction. I enjoyed some of the seminars and learnt something there. The busy lively worship sessions I found overwhelming. I preferred the quieter and more reflective ones. I am often at the edge of groups. I am not saying that to elicit sympathy- I actively cultivate this as I enjoy being there. I instantly felt more comfortable at Greenbelt. It suited a misfit like me. And met my needs in a memorable way. That’s another story! The more comments I write, the more stories I remember. Just need to re-activate my Blog, rename it or something and then I can start writing. Julia


      • “a misfit like me”
        Julia – I think that should be written on all our hearts. So much easier to be part of “the whole” I find. If I am a misfit, it is hard to draw the line with anyone after that! The “line” disappears and there is no “crossing it” or defending my side!
        (now you prompted some words I never knew were there!)
        I think you ought t get sharing those memories – if this “comment conversation” is stirring words such and thoughts in me – then where might it end if you stir so much more in so many more ….?


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