When I was growing up, my parents seemed to live from family reunion to family reunion. Each year, all the Moore families came from far and wide, gathering at Van Meter State Park outside of Marshall, Mo. As far as we were concerned, you could count on two things every year: the swallows’ return to Capistrano, and the Moore family’s return to Van Meter Park.

Our family celebrated only three major events: Christmas, Easter and the Moore Family reunion . . . not necessarily in that order. Each year, the cycle of life was evident. A relative who was here last year had passed away, another cousin had been married, and a newly arrived baby was waiting to be introduced to his extended family.

Around 10 a.m., vehicle after vehicle rumbled into the park, many with out-of-state license plates. Aunts, uncles, cousins and people I had never seen before pulled food from the trunks of their cars, lining the tables with a feast fit for a king. These were the days before fast food and Kentucky Refried Chicken. Each lady brought her own special dish. Nothing could get my mouth watering faster than a stack of homegrown sweet corn on the cob. Isn’t God wonderful, creating a food that comes with its own holder, just right for a young boy? Smearing an ear with a big slab of butter and generously sprinkling it with salt, I worked my way back and forth like a machine, simultaneously rotating the cob until every precious kernel disappeared. This entire process took less than a minute.

Next to corn on the cob, my favorite reunion food was chocolate pie. This was not that store-bought stuff which begins as a powder encased in impenetrable plastic, stuffed into a cardboard box. I am talking about the real deal. Made from scratch, this delectable dessert boasted milk straight from the cows outside the back door, a flaky crust made with Grandma’s lard, and warm meringue piled a foot high and ever-so-lightly browned. I feel sorry for folks who never tasted one of those heavenly pies.

After the food, the greatest attraction for the next generation of Moores was a hill at Van Meter Park called “Devil’s Backbone.” Any phrase containing the word “devil” brought a holy fear into this young boy’s heart. Standing at the bottom and looking up at the towering hill, I could see a wave that really did resemble someone’s spine. The object for all the children at the Moore Family Reunion was to run down this hill as fast as we could without falling. Many times, I failed the test. My feet began moving faster than my body, and the next thing I knew, I was tumbling head over heels down the hill. Those were the days when my bones were invincible and every scratch and bruise healed miraculously overnight.

The sun dipping behind the horizon served as a signal for the Moores that the evening’s music was about to begin. My dad and his brother pulled out their guitars and amplifiers; my Uncle Walter began drawing the bow across his fiddle (he was too poor to buy a violin), and together they tuned their instruments. Grandma and the rest of the older folks always brought over some lawn chairs and sat, fans in hand, using a methodical back-and-forth motion in an attempt to keep the sweat at bay while tapping their feet in rhythm to the music.

The night came to an end with long hugs and extended good-byes. No one wanted to leave, but the park would soon close its gates. As we drove out, we were already making plans for next year’s reunion.

The other day, I got a flyer in the mail announcing the 2007 Moore Family Reunion. The little cousin who raced me down the hill and two of my brothers are the grownups in charge. The tradition continues.

God created families to show us a glimpse of Heaven this side of eternity. Of course, the enemy doesn’t want us to find joy in our relationships. He has succeeded in making family time a negative experience for many people.

Purpose in your heart today to have a healthy, joyous family. One of these days, when God calls us home, you’ll be ready for a joyous reunion-one that lasts . . . forever.

Father, thank you for the gift of family. As summer approaches, help me find ways for our family to celebrate and make special memories together. Help us return to Your original design for the family and rest securely in Your loving grace. Amen.