Monday, May 25, 2009

Why Remembering is Important on Memorial Day

My grandfather’s name was Jack. I didn’t call him grandpa, I called him Jack. Even his own children (he had 6) weren’t allowed to call him “dad” until they were grown and out of the house. And so when they were at the beach or at the store or in the neighborhood and they wanted to get his attention, they didn’t yell for dad, they yelled “Jack,” so that he looked like one of the brothers and not the father.

Jack was a man of few words, and most of those words would not be appropriate for me write here! I didn’t know Jack deeply. What I knew of him was that he was hardened and somewhat distant. He was stubborn and opinionated. He didn’t like to be around people much and he certainly didn’t trust them, he kept his distance. He kept the thermostat in his home set at 60 degrees in the winter and he hated dogs and sauerkraut.

I found out as I got older that there were some events in Jack’s life that factored in to these personal traits. In 1945, Jack was flying a bombing mission over Germany, when his plane was shot down behind enemy lines. He was captured by enemy soldiers and taken to a small cell where he was kept as a P.O.W. He fought and survived. And fortunately the war ended while he was in prison and he was released to come home.

Our country was built on courage and strength of men and women like my grandfather. If Jack hadn’t been so courageous and strong, I literally wouldn’t be here because he wouldn’t have come home and wouldn’t have conceived my father and on and on. I can make that connection directly, but the connection is there indirectly for all of us. What if at some key moment in our history as a country, our troops had failed? What would it be like in America? Would you and I even be sitting here?

I'm disappointed in myself because I rarely think about what Jack did. I’m forgetful. My very existence was threatened by one key point in his history and because of his survival, I’m here. And I hardly ever think about that. We are a forgetful people. That’s why it is important for us to designate days and holidays to help us remember. Today is one of those days.

There are many examples in scripture of God using days, and markers, and holidays and festivals to help people remember important parts of their heritage. Like a string on a finger, God reminds us to remember. God created our brains so that we can tuck away memories. And then in an evocative way, in an instant as we remember, we are able to bring the past into the present and to live deeply in it. Remembering the past should do three things for us:
  1. It should force us to live in reality. We have a tendency to sugar coat the past or forget it all together. But truly remembering will ground us and center us and remind us of what is really going on.
  2. It should lead us to gratitude. My blessings as a Christian and as an American are so deep and so rich that my heart should be filled with gratefulness. Emerson said that if the stars came out only once a year, everyone would stay up all night to behold them. But we have seen stars so often that we don't bother to look at them anymore. We have grown accustomed to our blessings.
  3. It should move us toward faith. God has allowed us to move through difficulties as a nation much like he has to many of us as individuals. Just as He has been faithful in the past - He will continue to be faithful. That should inspire faith in us.
Why do you think remembering the past is important?

1 comment:

Danny Lucas said...

I'd love to comment on Jack, cemetaries, and what I have learned there (went to three yesterday), why some remember and others don't care, meeting the neighbors above ground (in cemetary visits) and talking to them before we all go below ground, and more.....but it is too late for this year.

But remembering is never to late for any time of year. It doesn't matter what I think on that, but it DOES matter what God thinks on that.

My children learned the commandments in unusual ways over their lives.
And, in last year's eulogy to my mom, a comparison was made on how God taught the Ten Commandment, and how Mom got the message across.
To reach the next generation, I asked each of the 99 grandchildren, to explore what they were really searching for.... on Google.... a topic they understood, but the search engine does not include laughter, tears, and memories.
Mom knew, without ever touching a computer in her life.

Here is a tip for this year, and all the years to come, in helping your child remember.

It comes to you from God.

Graduation will be upon us, and in some cases has occurred in recent days.

Whether kindergarden, 8th grade, high school, or college, invariably the kiddos wear a cap and gown.
At some point in the ceremony, the tassel is moved from one side to another and few of the kids have an understanding of this peculiar tradition.

Knowledge has been gained over years. It is now the basis to enter the world and learn wisdom. Switch the tassel from side-to-side, as a rememberance that a level of knowledge has been achieved.

I sent my daughter a box at graduation. The outside had blown up pictures of her as a child (choose four ages and cover all four sides with 8 X 10's if you like).
The top was a cardboard piece, covered in cloth material - school colors, and "diamonded" at the top of the box, like a graduation cap on a head.

WalMart had the tassels,
I bought a bundle of "blue tassels" years ago and still have a supply as new kids grow and achieve their knowledge.

Inside the box was a camera, and a note to "snap the memories of their lifetime, and send a couple of the best to dad".

There was also a handwritten note quoting God about those blue tassels. Here is God:

Tassels on Garments

The LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the CORNERS OF YOUR GARMENTS,
with a BLUE cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will REMEMBER all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will REMEMBER to obey all my commands and will be CONSECRATED to your God. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD your God.' "
~~~ Numbers 15: 37-41
(all CAPS are "emphasis mine", except the word LORD; He emphasised that Himself in the text).

Teach people why they do this peculiar tradition.
And teach them why God said to do it.
Turtles carry a shell to house all that they are.

We carry a skull and brain to house all our memories.

The shell, the brain, and the memories made within, are vital to wisdom and life.