Well for the ladies in our family the last few weeks have been a time of remembering their pasts. First Gail got together with two of her oldest friends Pam and Roger. Back over 50 years ago Gail's mother Mary Alice used to take care of Pam and Roger while their mothers were at work. So the three of them grew up together from a very young age. They have a very precious photo of them as they were going off to their first day of Kindergarten together and the three of them reenacted that photo the other night while we were together for dinner at Julio's Restaurant.
|Gail is in the center of both photos|
Wm Roy Karlen photo
At any rate we all had a great time (even Maddie) and stayed at the Restaurant until they were about to kick us out so they could close. Fortunately they were very slow that night so we weren't in their way.
|In the top photo the girls are around 9 years old|
Maddie is in the middle of the front row
In the bottom photo the girls are all around 19 years old
Maddie is the second from the left side of the photo
Wm Roy Karlen photo
Each of these lovely ladies is headed down a new road. Roads that will take them far, far away (Maddie is wanting to move to Canada) from their childhood friendships. But even as they continue to move through life it's important for them to remember where and from whom they've come. That's why gathering with old friends is so important in my opinion. You relive those days and you remember what used to be important when life was simpler and more innocent. I sincerely hope they'll stay in contact with one another as they continue to grow and start their own careers and families.
But one of the interesting things about memories is that science has found that the very act of remembering actually subtly changes our memories, therefore, our memories evolve as we age. When you combine this with the all too human tendency to only remember the good things, can often end up giving us idyllic memories of our past. Which brings up my own memory, of some of the haunting lyrics in the song "September When It Comes" by Johnny & Rosanne Cash. The verse goes "I cannot be who I was then, in a way I never was...."
I fear that often our memories of the 'Good Ole Days' are far, far better indeed than the 'Old Days' ever were. Sad to say this phenomena can be corporate in nature as well as individual. As a group we tend to look back at years gone by and remember them as being the 'Golden Years' for our organization. I've seen this in many organizations for example the Junior Chamber of Commerce and certainly in any Christian Denomination that I've been involved in. Many of our Churches in this part of the Country enjoyed their largest membership numbers perhaps 40 years ago, and have ever since been lamenting the 'Good Ole Days'. A great deal of ink and bandwidth has been expended trying to determine just why this trend has continued so I won't pretend to try and tackle that in this blog post.
But, there are absolutely Churches out there that are bucking this trend. And how are they doing it? Well, I suspect that there are specific things in each instance. I certainly don't think that fashionable things like 'coffee bars' and the like are going to suddenly turn a church around and make it the 'place to be'. So what is it? Well, I'm going to give my own opinion which is worth in most likelihood, exactly what you are paying for it... so take it for what it is.
I remember back when I was active in the Jaycee organization (look out idyllic memories ahead). I was at the monthly meeting for my local chapter, the Bennington Jaycees. It was election time and they were trying to find somebody to run for Chapter President. Now this chapter at that time had two distinct factions at work and was nearly at the point where the membership was so low that their charter would be pulled by the National organization. Nobody would come forward to take the helm of this sinking ship and I'll confess I suddenly became very disgusted and angry with what was going on. Suddenly, I piped up and said that I'd take the job. Everyone looked at me kind of stunned wondering why in the world I would agree to take this thankless job (though relieved that now they could stop trying to rationalize to everyone why they couldn't do it).
The chapter had once been one of the major chapters in the State and was constantly looking back and telling stories about back when they had done this and that. Well, long story short by the end of my year as Chapter President we had more than tripled our membership, started two new chapters in nearby towns, and had helped two other nearby chapters to rebuild themselves and keep from having their charters pulled. How did we do it? Well we got excited about being there, we did things to generate enthusiasm and participation by old and new members. One of the things I was the most proud of was that we had one member who had belonged to the chapter for nearly 20 years, who had never once signed up a new member, during our year he signed up five members.
We went from a chapter that was about to die to the largest chapter in our population division and the number five ranked chapter of any size in Nebraska. It was all done by involvement and activation. Suddenly, we had energy and folks wanted to be involved. In any organization or life, things can turn up or down fairly quickly. With an organization what you have to have is a core of motivated people who are having fun and feel valued because of what they are doing. But these folks can't claim all the responsibility or duties, you have to spread around the tasks as much as you can so everyone feels vital to the group. Plus you have to make sure that everyone knows that their contributions are valued by the whole.
The key to me is that enthusiasm, that excitement, a positive attitude in that things are on the upswing. At the risk of falling prey to the gurus of 'the power of positive thinking', there is a great truth to the impact of believing in the best. Ironically, too often we as Christians are 'Debbie Downers' when we should really have faith that God will provide. God will always provide but we have to follow his path with excitement and confidence, if we do there is no place for us to go but up...
It's a wonderful thing to remember our pasts and our individual and corporate heritage, but let us not unconsciously decide to live in the past. God wants us to be his hands and feet in the here and now, we can't do that if we are stuck in the past.
May this rambling blog post find you all well and enveloped in the Love of Christ.
In God's Grace,