Monday, November 23, 2009
Collective memory is powerful. Shared experience settles somewhere in the recesses of our minds. With that mysterious but effective mechanism, memories can be recalled and replayed especially in the company of someone else who was also there.
We marvel the ready access to mountains of information we enjoy at the simple push of a button via the electronic superhighway. I now carry Google around with me everywhere I go. I can even search by simply speaking my question out loud. And I often do. Carolyn and I wondered about Amy Grant’s age. Within seconds, we had it. She turns forty-nine on Wednesday. Thanks, Google.
But as amazing as our technology is, we still have not plumbed the depths of the operation of the human mind and the software that drives it. We are, as Ekhart Tolle says, caught in the now. This is the only moment we possess. But our minds are also recording devices, and we can call up the past, reminisce, rehearse and with a little imagination thrown in and a few photos as an assist, it is almost as though we relive it.
Not all those recollections edify. I have been around long enough to wish more than a few of those memory files away; recollections tucked away in those mental subdirectories that require a password. Would that the delete button on my failings would be as efficient as the one right here on my keyboard as I write. I would happily dispatch those forgettable moments into cyberspace without a trace.
But then, we have the capacity to choose. We can decide which memories we will pull up for review. We can choose where we go. With whom we associate.
Choice is, perhaps, one of our most basic duties as humans. It is a duty and a privilege. An opportunity and an obligation. Some suggest that choice is simply an illusion; that forces from the outside control all of us, and ultimately we are helpless. I have never subscribed to this view, though like you, I have been helpless before overwhelming circumstances before which I am powerless. Sometimes it is hard. But then there is serendipity, too; surprise by joy. Like last weekend.
All these thoughts swirled around me as I sat with Carolyn on a crisp, sunny Sunday morning out in a valley on a farm near a pumpkin patch with the people who ten years ago responded to the call of a local visionary to start a church. I resisted, at first. Bill was likeable enough. But I was weary of religion. When Bill knocked on my door, I had pretty much given up on the idea that church mattered.
We were new in town. We moved, happily, because that church situation we left behind was a mess. Political infighting trumped joy. Turf wars left good people broken and bleeding. We started out with the right motives, but in time we became a sorry collection of Pharisees and Sadducees. The factions all claimed to be in step with their hero. Some were of Paul. Some were of Peter. Others, Apollos. And that Jesus crowd was the worst. All claimed to be biblical. Mainly, our gatherings were occasions for debate, one-upmanship, spiritualizing, posturing and confrontation-in-love. The forced smiles didn’t fool anyone.
Settled into our new home out in the country, I found a great big church where I reveled in my anonymity. It was twenty-five miles away. We could slip in any given Sunday morning and not meet anyone by name. No one seemed to notice we were there. I liked it that way. On the Sundays we slept in, no one missed us.
But then, Bill, the ultimate networker, with an easy, natural way about him, began to pull us together. We started meeting our neighbors. We found out some of them had been praying that God would bring new neighbors who would be a source of spiritual encouragement and nourishment.
The first Bible study took place in our living room.
That was ten years ago. We gathered to celebrate what happened since. Hundreds of lives have been changed. We pooled our resources and bought a fixer-upper up on the ridge. We faced fire and rain and sunny days we thought would never end.* And there we were, worshipping with abandon out there in the open air, celebrating God’s goodness. In spite us. In and through us. Because of us. We call it Ridgeview.
I have written a couple of books about those days out there in our very own Lake Wobegone. Before long, you’ll find links on the Internet. Stay tuned.
Paul had it right.
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
Copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2009*Thank you, James Taylor. Scripture quote from The Message, Eugene Peterson