Thursday, November 29, 2012

Memory triggers

Isn't it funny how certain sounds, places, or events triggers memories from long ago?  As I'm working at my desk right now I'm playing a CD of oldies but goodies.  The song that just finished was "Harper Valley PTA," a song that was popular in the late 1960s.  As soon as the song began I began to remember being in Bremerton, Washington where the ship on which I was stationed was being serviced.  My wife and daughter were back home in Indiana, and we had not seen each other in months.  When I would go into town on liberty I often stopped at a little cafe on my way back to the base to drink a few cups of coffee and feed the juke box.  That was one of the songs I always played.  Today as the song played I could see the inside of that cafe, the place I often sat, and could almost taste the coffee.  I even felt some of the lonliness I felt back then.

Memories are funny things.  Some people live their whole lives trapped with hurtful memories of abuse and/or neglect.  Such memories keep them from ever moving forward with their lives.  Others were blessed to have been raised in situations that were positive, and those memories make it easy for such people to enjoy great success in life.  I doubt that most parents have any idea how the memories we create for our children will impact them for the rest of their lives.

I've made poor choices in life as we all have, but I've also avoided some because at the right moment something my parents or some other important person in my life said or done would come to mind.  Occasionally, it might have been something I didn't appreciate at the time, but many years later I've come to understand the wisdom behind what they said or did.  As a parent and grandparent I pray that I will have that kind of impact on my own family. 

As a minister we also have an opportunity to create memories for the people we serve that can serve them throughout their lives.  As a young boy of five or six I was often allowed to stand beside the pulpit in our little church and read the scriptures or sing a special.  (I'm not allowed to sing specials now, but back then I was cute!)  No one can find the pictures but many of us remember seeing them of me dressed in a little suit standing beside the pulpit with a Bible in my hand.   Many years later our pastor at that time spoke at my ordination service and admitted he never knew if I had memorized those verses or could read at that young age.  That was nearly 60 years ago, but that image is still in my mind and I know it had an impact on my later going into the mministry.

Twelve years ago I left pastoral ministry to begin judicatory work, but occasionally someone will come to me to tell me of a sermon I preached or something that happened in our church that still impacts them today.  I've often forgotten the sermon, but a phrase or a story that it contained is burned into their memory banks and God still uses it to guide their lives.

As parents and church leaders let's make it a priority to help create positive memories for people that will add value to their lives and help them become better servants of our Lord.

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