Remembering yesterday builds faith for tomorrow

Do you know what today is? Quite a few people probably do, but there’s a whole generation that probably doesn’t. Today is Pearl Harbor Day, the 74th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the US military base in Hawaii. It was ultimately what propelled the United States into World War II. We’re a very patriotic family. I have relatives who served in World War II, abroad and here at home, and it’s sobering to realize how many people think that December 7 is just another day.

Not in my family. World War II affected my family too extensively to ever let it fade from memory. But a lot of that is because we have made an effort to remember it. That’s part of what it means to memorialize something–to make the effort to remember it. If you don’t, you’ll forget. And when you forget the past, you often forget the lessons you learned because of it.

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The USS Arizona (BB-39) burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor

Today’s verses are Joshua 4:4-7.

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen—one from each of the tribes of Israel. He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.”

This was something God told Joshua to do, and you have to appreciate that God understands how easily distracted we are. If we don’t have an object lesson or a symbol, it’s a lot harder for us to remember anything. That’s why memorials matter.

When you a memorial, you need to realize that someone just wants to remember something. That’s all a memorial is, whether it’s a museum or 12 stones from a riverbed. Sometimes the things we want to remember are good. Sometimes the things we need to remember are bad. But even remembering the bad things can be positive, because we remember how God saw us through or what God taught us through those difficult times.

My problem is that I get too busy to memorialize anything. I don’t take the time to build anything that will help me remember. The closest I get to it is notes in my little stand-up desk calendar. Or sometimes Facebook will remind me of something that happened in the past. And the result of that is I more easily forget what God has done for me. I am more easily distracted from God’s plan for my life because I’m too busy trying to figure out what my next step needs to be and I forget that He’s already got a plan made.

So today, I want to just stop and remember what He’s done for me. I want to build a memorial, so to speak, where I can look back and acknowledge the good and the bad and how it’s changed my life for the better.

It doesn’t take long. Just a few minutes. That thing that happened yesterday? That bad thing you didn’t enjoy? Mark it down. Remember it. Not in a sour way that will make you bitter. Just in a matter-of-fact way so you can look back on it in a few years and remember it, because in a few years it might just be the stepping stone you needed to help you achieve your dreams.

Don’t take anything for granted. Even the bad stuff. God’s big enough to use it all, so we need to have faith big enough to trust Him. And faith that size comes because you remember what He’s already done for you.

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Rainy afternoon in the hills around Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Looking for the light when all you see is clouds

Have you ever experienced a season of life where nothing seemes to go right? Where every step you take is just another opportunity for something to go wrong? To blow up in your face? Just being honest, I’ve been there for most of this year.

Have you ever been there? Maybe you’re there right now. If you are, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve experienced the exhaustion, the fatigue, the worry, and the stress. You’ve struggled through the things you can’t control and the things you can. And you’ve worn yourself out trying to plan for every eventuality, only to discover that it’s worse than you imagined when it happens.

In seasons like that, you have a choice. You can either choose to focus on everything that’s going wrong, or you can look for the tiny ray of light that’s shining through the clouds. Because it’s there. It may be small, but it exists. And it’s there to remind you that all things happen for a reason, especially the things that seem bad.

Rainy afternoon in the hills around Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Rainy afternoon in the hills around Hadrian’s Wall, Northern England

Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
    so why should I tremble?
When evil people come to devour me,
    when my enemies and foes attack me,
    they will stumble and fall.
Though a mighty army surrounds me,
    my heart will not be afraid.
Even if I am attacked,
    I will remain confident.

The one thing I ask of the Lord—
    the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
    delighting in the Lord’s perfections
    and meditating in his Temple.
For he will conceal me there when troubles come;
    he will hide me in his sanctuary.
    He will place me out of reach on a high rock.
Then I will hold my head high
    above my enemies who surround me.
At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy,
    singing and praising the Lord with music.

Hear me as I pray, O Lord.
    Be merciful and answer me!
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
    And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
Do not turn your back on me.
    Do not reject your servant in anger.
    You have always been my helper.
Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me,
    O God of my salvation!
Even if my father and mother abandon me,
    the Lord will hold me close.

Teach me how to live, O Lord.
    Lead me along the right path,
    for my enemies are waiting for me.
Do not let me fall into their hands.
    For they accuse me of things I’ve never done;
    with every breath they threaten me with violence. 
Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness
    while I am here in the land of the living.

Wait patiently for the Lord.
    Be brave and courageous.
    Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

2013 has been a difficult year in so many ways. Name it and it’s probably gone wrong. But at the same time, it’s been an awesome year. God has given me opportunities to do things I never would have dreamed, and He’s opened doors in ways I never expected. So it’s up to me whether I choose to focus on everything that’s gone wrong this year, or choose to focus on everything that’s gone right because of what’s gone wrong. That’s the key. Nothing really “goes wrong” when you’re following God; it just means you (through God’s strength) have an opportunity to turn something our enemy intends for evil into something that can bless other people.

That can be difficult to remember. But God doesn’t let anything touch us without permission. God doesn’t allow anything into our lives with no purpose. He absolutely doesn’t leave us to face it alone. And when you least expect it, He makes Himself known in a way you won’t see coming. It’s happened so many times in the past year. When I’m down and discouraged and feeling alone, God sends someone into my path who reminds me exactly who He is. Whether that’s what they intend to do or not (sometimes they aren’t even believers), God uses them to help me see that I’m not alone and that none of this is futile. (You may notice this blog now has no ads on it, thanks to one of these reminders I’m talking about.)

So keep your eyes open. Choose to see the opportunities God is giving you rather than the ones you think He’s taking away. Wait patiently and attentively, and you’ll see Him. And remember you’re not on your own.