Always Remember

“The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming.” – Frederick Buechner

 

Another Memorial Day is behind us. Not just a long weekend and the start of summer fun. No, this is a time to remember our fallen heroes and those that wear uniforms and serve us still. It’s a weekend for the flag, visits to the grave stones and hearing stories that will soon be gone into the mist of memory.

Remembering isn’t confined to just special weekends like this one. It can become a very healthy and liberating practice.

Too often we remember with regret. We think about the past and filter out all but the fun stuff. There are depths to our lived experiences that only bear fruit in years and generations to come. As we remember the details, the filed away emotions and the unresolved situations, we continue to build our self of today. Those days of long ago still work even now, they still have power to change us, to nourish our souls and to bear something meaningful for others.

Remember when you failed, crashing down in flames.

These seem to be the easiest memories that our fragile egos clutch in so much desperation. Failure is a part of everyone’s story. Failure is only half of the story. Too often, we leave our failures to rot in the grave of our memory and they end up doing nothing but bringing us harm. Failure, taken to it’s end, can liberate us. We learn from failure. We grow resilient from failure. We grow up and mature when we fail. All of these are like forks in the road of failure, chances to go right or wrong. Too often we take the wrong fork, or worse yet, become paralyzed and stop moving forward altogether.

“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.”  ― Henry David Thoreau

Remember when you offered that helping hand, when no one else even noticed.

There are secret memories that are really no one else’s business. Private words of encouragement and comfort that are said quickly or spoken with great care. Only you were able to help and so you did. Maybe it was something you could do in secret and not even the one being helped would ever know. These are the memories about yourself that are too often crowded out by all the mistakes from your past. It leaves you with a memory that forever limps with an imbalance.

Remember when you didn’t think you were going to make it another step, your heart was too broken to go on.

These are hard memories to dig back up. They’ve typically been buried away, deep in the ground of forgetfulness where they can no longer cause pain. But so often it is out of this same brokenness that our next layer of wholeness emerges.

“Nobody had forgotten anything here. In Berlin, you had to wrestle with the past, you had to build on the ruins, inside them. It wasn’t like America where we scraped the earth clean, thinking we could start again every time. ” ― Janet Fitch

Remember, as you pack away that box, what all that stuff symbolizes to you. A box full of meaning from so long ago.

Are you an organizer? Do you collect all the debris from the journey of your life? Are there boxes of photographs, old journals, mementos from long ago – all piled up in top of your closet of pushed under your bed? Our memories are filled with symbolic meaning – a smell, a location, an article of clothing, etc. But those meanings are not just trapped in our past. It’s possible to look back and discover memories and assign new and powerful meaning to them.

I ran into a friend from twenty years ago. We talked about our shared past and remembered together a number of common experiences we had forgotten. Getting together, renewing our friendship and then sealing it with these memories bound up with meaning was a brand new and liberating experience that we built from our shared memory.

Remember those dreams you once had, stolen away by time and replaced by duty and necessity.

Keep them alive and beating away in your heart. Don’t put a timer on them. If they have to wait, let them wait until their time has come. Don’t live a life without the memory of all your hopes.

“Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird,
That cannot fly.”
― Langston Hughes

Let your dreams themselves, not the long wait for their arrival, keep your life filled with that longing for the next sunrise.

Remember all those people along the path of your life as you dig through the Christmas card photos from years gone by.

I tend to keep Christmas postcards with family photos way too long. I’ve got them all over the house. They remind me of childhood gone so quickly. I am nudged to pray for people all around me and far away. Those smiling faces that peer out at you, day after day, are a reminder of friendships and families that keep us grounded, connected and safe from loneliness.

“There’s a loneliness that only exists in one’s mind. The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is blink.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald

Remember yourself, someone who has been different at each stage of life, there’s someone who could really use what you know now.

When you talk with people, especially people who are at the stages of life that you have already passed through, remember you own life back then. Remember the encouraging words that helped you all along the way – or the words you wished you had heard. Be that person who lights the way for others. Use your own life, with all the mistakes and victories, to turn back and give others a hand up. Remember that you are not alone, that all kinds of people were there in your life – determine to be there for all those people passing by you. Use your past to enrich someone’s future. Be intentional with your speech, your actions and your prayers.

But don’t forget to help others and to share your possessions with them. This too is like offering a sacrifice that pleases God. – Hebrews 13:16

(Your memories are a possession too)

 

Distraction

shipwreck-pictures

“The soul is torn apart in a painful condition as long as it prefers the eternal because of its Truth but does not discard the temporal because of familiarity.”

― Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

How long has it been since your last distraction?

Sometimes, they last for a short time and then you refocus and get back to it. I was trying to get a calculation mistake corrected in an email the other day and almost had to chase everyone out of my office so I could focus and get it right. That was a brief distraction and I can’t do math equations with five conversations going on all around me.

There are all sorts of sources of advice about how to keep focused and avoid those inevitable distractions. That kind of advice can be a wonderful distraction itself when you’re tired of whatever task is before you.

“I always advise people never to give advice.”  ― P.G. Wodehouse

What about the ones that take us away for long, long stretches of time and space? Distractions that become habits. Persistent distractions that get in the way consistently.

I was thinking the other day about being distracted for years. Is it possible that a distraction can last that long? Can distraction(s) keep you from what you know is really essential? Can you become distracted for so long that you forget the real purpose, meaning, calling, direction, plan or obedient steps to your life?

It seems like whole seasons of my life pass by and I end up distracted by so much urgency. I was thinking THIS was the big plan but then one day realized it was all a distraction. I get frustrated or angry or despondent because of the distraction of this present moment – losing sight of eternity. Days blend into one long blurr because I’ve lost touch with the eternal purpose that I know is lodged in my soul and draws me onward.

Circumstances get blamed for their distracting effect. I just finished teaching my Sunday School class about Saint Paul chained up in a ship sailing through a fourteen day hurricane all the while giving the captain nautical advice. God had told Paul that he was going to take him to Rome. Even the certainty of a shipwreck, over two hundred panicked passengers, crew members fighting for everyone’s life, none of that could distract him from his certainty of where he had been told he was going – even if it meant a potential execution.

I’m so glad that he never gave up. It inspires me to keep running, despite the failures, opposition and distractions…

I think he was able to keep from being distracted because he had something very certain and specific to focus his mind, heart and soul upon. Unlike Peter, Paul didn’t start to sink but kept his eyes of faith on what he knew was eternal. He certainly suffered tremendous physical, emotional and social pain. Read his epistles and at times he reveals how much he struggled. But, he wasn’t distracted.

“Let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.” – Hebrews 12:1

Circumstances, like weather, change. I don’t want to have a fair weather faith.  Even when I’m soaked to the soul, I want to ignore more and more of those constant distractions and keep walking as if I’m a citizen of eternity right now.

“It is eternity now. I am in the midst of it. It is about me in the sunshine; I am in it as the butterfly in the light-laden air. Nothing has to come; it is now. Now is eternity; now is the immortal life.”

― Richard Jefferies