When Remembrance Gets Personal

Reposting from a couple of years ago…because it’s important to remember.

Since I was in New York for a conference during the week of the twelfth anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attack I was “hesitantly eager” to visit the September 11 Memorial.  Upon arrival, the air was crisp and the sky was bright- much like that fateful day twelve years ago.  The upward view of the new World Trade Center tower keenly activated my fear of heights, so  I decided to walk around the memorial pools.

0913131530 I felt sad for the victims and families, but I did not know any of them personally- so my remembrance was rather general in nature.

As I walked by the second pool, my eyes caught sight of a small American flag embedded inside one of the engraved letters (of a victim’s name) in the surrounding wall. 0913131526a  A letter, protected by a plastic sleeve, was attached to this flag.  Curious, I went over close enough to read the letter.   A picture adorned the top of the page followed by these words:

Dear Donald,

   Your children and I miss you more and more each day.   Donald (14) plays soccer, golf and drums in his first year of high school.  Lara (14) continues to dance and sing. She was selected to be in the select choir.  Connor (11) looks just like you and loves the ocean.  He has the same passion for body boarding as you did.  They speak of you often and wish you were here to see them grow up.  As for me, I am very busy running around getting them to all their activities.  I miss our life together.  Until we meet again.

                                                                                                                                                Love, your wife Jacqueline


On the other side of the letter was another picture with this message:

Every year on your birthday your niece, nephew and children throw a wreath in the ocean in Montauk.  This was your favorite place.  Everyone misses you. 

By this time, the lump in my0913131527a throat was uncomfortable and the tears welled up in my eyes.  My heart ached for this young wife and mother, who apparently had two-year-old twins and was pregnant with a son when this horrific event happened.  Suddenly, remembrance went from “history” to “personal.”

This morning, as I worshipped with my church family and as the communion trays were passed,  I thought through some familiar scriptures on remembrance.   My mind went to the letter to Donald as I reflected on how remembrance becomes personal only when names, emotions and memories are attached to an event we are remembering.

Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are merely historical events until they are attached to someone whose love captures our hearts. When this happens remembrance becomes personal and revolutionizes the way we think and how we live.

I prayed silently as if I were writing him a letter of remembrance.  In this silent letter I tried to somehow express my appreciation for what he has done for me…telling him how much his life, death and resurrection has changed me and how personal he is to me.  I owe the joy I have found in my life to his example, sacrifice, power and words.  My marriage, family, purpose and peace would not be possible without his complete involvement in my life.

It’s so easy to walk around life focusing on distractions that seem to loudly call my name – and forget that everything I hold important stems from a personal relationship with the one who has changed my life forever.

If my remembrance of God isn’t personal, then Jesus will become a distant historical event observed in a museum rather than a current life changing, joy producing relationship.

As I communed with God this morning I thought of Luke 22:19.    And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

How personal and thankful is your remembrance?

Which Letter is Yours?

In the spirit of Thanksgiving….

Whenever I read the short book of Philippians, I am struck by the apostle Paul’s gratitude and corresponding joy.  Whether or not you celebrate a particular day of Thanksgiving, take the time this week to read the short book of Philippians—focusing on Paul’s thankful attitude and the joy that flows from this attitude. Now, think about the circumstances he faced as he wrote, especially his imprisonment.

If Paul had not been a grateful person, I imagine his letter would have sounded more like this:

Chapter 1  It’s me, Paul.

So…I guess there’s not much to say…not much hope.  While you are enjoying your freedom, here I sit chained to a prison guard. This stinks… and there is nothing I can accomplish from here.

Not only can I do nothing to reach out to and share with people, but there are lots of people out there preaching wrong things, undoing the good I’ve tried to do.  It irks me, and I am totally depressed about this.

Chapter 2    Nobody really cares about me…everyone is just thinking about themselves.  Well, except maybe Timothy and now he’ll likely go to you and then you will “need” him.  Sheez…what else do you want?  Of course, I do have Epaphroditus, my one fellow worker and friend.  You might as well take him too while you’re at it.  Besides, while here trying to help me out he went and got sick on me. It’s just one lousy thing after another.

Chapter 3  You know I had a lot going on before all this.  I was somebody significant…but I’ve really lost everything now. God must hate me.  I’ve tried to give everything…and look where it’s gotten me. There’s really not much more I could possibly do ..it’s over …and besides–look where sacrifice has gotten me anyway.  In jail.  Just sitting here–shackled.

Chapter 4  And…if all this is not enough, my “friends” Euodia and Syntyche can’t even get along.  For cryin’ out loud…. All the whining.  Will someone tell them to shut it? Can’t anybody get along anymore? Problems everywhere.  And I’m tired, hungry and poor to boot.  I’d ask for help, but you’d probably just respond like everybody else has.  When I asked before, almost no one wanted to help.  Well, gotta go…not feeling so good.  And the more I remember all this bad stuff the worse I feel.   Maybe I’ll get lucky and die. Meanwhile, I sit here chained to a stinkin’ guard..

Now ask youself….what would your letter sound like?  This is a convicting and challenging question for me.  Would it be as you read the book of Philippians in your Bible?…Or would it be written more like the “rewrite” above?  The difference between the two lies in our attitude of gratitude—or lack thereof.  May you have a week (and life)  filled with gratitude and the overflowing joy that follows.  Happy Thanksgiving.IMG_2923

An Attitude of Gratitude

Ever wonder why some people, even amid dire circumstances, continue to be thankful, content and happy individuals while others, who have access to many good things, complain, are unhappy and easily annoyed? I have observed that there is a common theme with gratitude – lack of entitlement  Those who feel the most “entitled”, have the greatest difficulty finding the ability to be truly grateful. When we feel we deserve something, we are often left disappointed, annoyed or angry. At least that’s how it goes for me.  There is just no room for thankfulness.   Consider the challenging but eye (and heart) opening scripture in Luke 17:7-10
“Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? [8] Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? [9] Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? [10] So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ “

This is challenging to me.  However, when I approach my service to God and others out of emptying myself… because of honor and appreciation for Him it changes the way I look at everything.  Though God treats me with incredible love and tenderness, it is often easy to get confused and think that these are things he “owes” me.  In my heart of hearts I know that what I really deserve is to die and go to hell.  That’s truly what I “deserve”, but I can easily forget this fact.  God’s graciousness, however, allows me to be treated not as I deserve, but with the gift of love, kindness and care. Whenever I forget this, I cease to be a grateful person.  Lost gratitude leads to a downward spiral described in Romans 1:21
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened….

The downward spiral that follows has its beginning with a failure to give thanks.  From there, our thinking becomes futile and we begin a plunge into a dark hole.

However, when I truly believe I have been given God’s mercy…forgiveness, purpose, the power to change, direction for my life, etc, etc…..everything changes, especially my mindset, or attitude.

Romans 12:1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. [2] Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

The world around me tells me that I deserve prestige, money, fast internet and even a good parking place.  However, when I live God’s will for my life (which is right, feels good and is all around fantastic!) I am then able to renew my mind and transform my way of thinking. Then I can give, serve and empty myself….only to find that in the meantime I am at peace, happy, grateful and energized.  Gratitude begins with our attitude,… and as the scripture below shows… it puts a song in our hearts and a pep in our step.

Col. 3:15-17
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. [16] Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. [17] And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Over the next few days I plan to think a lot about the incredible blessings of people, places and things for which I am grateful.  I expect to smile a lot, though I’m sure some tears will flow as I remember special memories of those no longer here.  May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, and live with a joyful, thankful attitude…if you live on a trash heap or in a mansion.