88. Thanks for the Memories


     It seems to be coming in the last week or so from a variety of sources during the normal, everyday routine activities of my life.  Despite the familiarity of it all, it still startles me just a bit.   How is it possible that you can experience so many emotions about things that happened years ago simply because some current event triggered a “Déjà vu” moment?  Though I know the current event is obviously not connected to the experience I’m remembering, the feelings seem just as strong.   It’s almost like reliving those original days all over again.

     “Déjà vu” is a common intuitive experience that happens to most of us at one time or another. The expression is derived from the French, meaning “already seen.” When it occurs, it seems to spark our memory of a place we have already been, a person we have already seen, or an act we have already done. Some of those memories are good, while at other times they bring back things we’d rather just forget.  In the midst of such moments it is easy to be taken back by a wave of emotions,  both positive and negative. 

     This particular season of “Déjà vu” started with the picture I’ve included above.  This is one of my favorite photos of my four oldest grandkids taken a number of years ago.  To put the photo in perspective,  the oldest blonde on the left got married last summer and is about to graduate from college. The young man and the smiling girl in pink are both graduating from High School this year, and the cutie with the smirk on her face is now almost as tall as I am and a stunning beauty. Three other grandkids came after this picture….two more girls born just two weeks apart, and one more spunky grandson, thus completing the family. 

      I’ve seen this photo hundreds of times.  It’s included in a collection of photos that hangs on the wall in my office, and also rotates through on one of those digital photo frames.  But about a week ago during one of those rare idle moments as I sat at my desk I saw it again……and it hit me!  It was like I was there all over again!  The photo was taken at Marie Calendar’s restaurant in Eugene, Oregon after we had enjoyed a nice meal with the whole family – my wife, our sons, their wives, our daughter and all the grandkids.   It was a great day, full of laughter, good-natured teasing, and plenty of hugs to go around…….not to mention an abundance of food!   As we came out of the restaurant, waiting for a someone who had gone to the restroom or something, I decided to get the grandkids all sitting on the bench right outside the door for this impromptu photo shoot. The result was an instant classic!  It was a great moment then…..and even a greater memory now.  Reliving the joy of that moment brought a huge smile to my face!!

     I was still thinking about that “Déjà vu” moment when Sunday rolled around.  One of the things that I like to do on Sunday morning is to mingle through the aisle of the auditorium shaking hands and having short conversations with as many different people  as possible before each of our services.  I love these little moments of interaction, and even I have to admit I’m pretty good at it!!  It’s one of strengths I bring to our team.  On this particular Sunday I was going through my normal routine when I came up to one of the young couples in our church.  They had recently welcomed a baby girl into their family and that little bundle of pink was resting peacefully all snuggled up in her baby carrier.  Almost instantly another “Déjà vu” moment hit me.   I interact with young couples and their babies regularly, but at this moment I was taken back to a time when my wife and I brought our newborn daughter to the church in a baby blanket and a carrier just like the one this couple had.  This couple must have thought I was a little crazy when I had to take a second to collect myself.

      If that wasn’t enough, it happened again last night.  I had the opportunity to go and watch my youngest grandson’s Little League team.   Honestly, the team isn’t very good, and most of the kids show the impact of not being able to play the last two years because of COVID.  I couldn’t help but notice the coach as the team struggled.  He wanted nothing but the best for these 10 young boys, but  so much of what he had been trying to teach them was forgotten in the heat of the moment.   He was trying to encourage them, but you could see the internal frustration.  I couldn’t help but chuckle as I had another one of those “Déjà vu” moments.  I coached my son’s Little League teams for a few years and went through those same emotions.  Watching my grandson’s coach I was somewhat transported in time back to my days of leading the Red Sox’s in Santa Rosa in the mid-1980s.   It almost seemed like I was right there again, encouraging my sons and their teammates, and trying to be positive while inside I was saying things like “Just swing the bat”,  “Hit the cutoff man”,  and  “Watch the ball”. 

      I know I’m getting older and have created a lot of memories over the years, but these rather sudden “Déjà vu” moments were definitely out of the ordinary rhythm of my routine.   It seems in the last week or so I’ve been reliving days long gone by and experiencing all over again the emotions those memories contain.   It has been an interesting week, filled with joy, surprise, and reflection.  I don’t think there is anything supernatural about what has been going on, but it’s definitely been something that has captured my attention and brought a whirlwind of thoughts to my mind.  In fact, it made me wonder if God didn’t have a few “Déjà vu” moments about my life too!

     I was privileged to be raised in a Christian family.  I first gave my life to Christ when I was just 8 years old, and honestly I’ve never really strayed from that commitment.  Don’t get me wrong…..I’ve made more than my share of mistakes, and I’ve certainly not been a stranger to sin.  But for as long as I can remember,  I’ve always known who God is, what God wanted from me, and what I needed to do to live a life that would please Him…….I just didn’t always do those things!!  I can hear a bunch of people saying “AMEN”!   Still, I think I’ve had some “Déjà vu” worthy moments that must make God smile when He recalls them.  After all, He created me, called me, and has worked hard to guide my footsteps along the way. Despite my stubbornness,  disobedience, and bad attitudes at times,  I’ve almost always made the necessary course corrections to do what He wants me to do.   I think He is probably proud to call me His son……though even I question His judgement at times! 

     I wonder if He doesn’t chuckle when He remembers my dad taking me back to the Safeway store to confess that I had stolen a few cents worth of penny candies when I was 8.  Is He like a proud parent when He watches me give my first sermon at the age of 15 entitled, “The Generation Gap vs The Gap of the Generations”?  Trust me, it wasn’t profound!   Perhaps he feels empathy when He recalls the days I had it out with Him walking along a deserted railroad track after a broken engagement. Does it seem like yesterday when He recalls watching me become a dad for the first time, or all the mistakes I made along the way of planting a church right out of seminary?   I wonder if He winches when He remembers overseeing the doctors perform my 5 knee operations or seeing the pain in my heart when performing my father’s funeral, or dealing with so many other losses through the years?      The fact is, I think God does have “Déjà vu” moments.  Scripture tells us He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. He sees the past just as clearly as He sees the present and the future. My life is not a mystery to Him, even with all the twists and turns that have come my way.  If I can experience those moments once again through “Déjà vu”,  then it just makes sense so can He.   Something about that idea gives me comfort.  God knows me!!  He knows everything about me!!   He’s filled my life with memories that I can’t forget……..and He doesn’t either!  That’s just pretty incredible, isn’t it

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