then he set up his tents and built an altar there to honor the God of Israel.
—Genesis 33:20, Contemporary English Version
One of the memorable songs of the Motown era—made famous by the Temptations—was a seventies tune with lyrics written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, “Papa Was A Rolling Stone.” It has been said that the extended instrumentation on the song is as famous as the vocals. The Temptations’ version is an enduring depiction of classic soul. And soul music always tells a riveting story.
Remember the lyrics?
Papa was a rollin’ stone
Wherever he laid his hat was his home
And when he died
All he left us was alone.”
I have no idea who the writers had in mind as “Papa,” but on this we can agree: there are better examples of family leadership. Personally, I have only lived in four different cities in my entire life. Three of those major, lifetime moves were guided by my late husband and life partner and were based upon God-given directions about ministry.
As a Biblical example, Jacob was a papa whose transitions were broad. Jacob was undisputedly one of the most unique individuals who ever lived. The Genesis account (chapters 31 to 33) describes one of the great transitions he engineered for himself and his family. Spiritually, he transitioned from being a trickster, swindler and cheat one day to becoming a Prince with God the next.
The King James Version and other translations say that Jacob named that altar in Shechem “El Elohe Israel” or “God, the Great God of Israel.”
I am creating my personal El Elohe Regina, celebrating God, the Great God of my own life. My personal altar is a place that will forever bring praise to God and allow me to celebrate the great work that He has done in my life and in the life of my family.
Whatever your ballad, whatever your story, be like Jacob and decide this: wherever you pitch your tent, you just oughta build an altar.