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  • Lived Memory – Part I

    Child of God

    Yeah…that’s me.

    I think I was in kindergarten. It might have been preschool (both classes shared the same room, the same sandbox, same reading and napping cubbies, and the same head lice). I know I wasn’t in first grade (or Grade One for my Canadian friends). First grade, Ms. Knapper’s class, was at the opposite end of the hall and cluttered with old sets from school plays and art supplies. An old beehive hung from the ceiling. Somewhere in the chaos was a paddle for naughty kids…but I digress. Let’s just agree: I was in Kindergarten.

    A man arrived with a camera around his neck and big shiny lights. As he set them up, the teacher introduced him and told us to just go about our regular kindergarten business: doing stuff with oversized pencils and crayons and keeping our fingers from our noses.

    A few shutter clicks later, the man was gone and quickly forgotten. Months had passed, and news came that one of pictures the man had taken was going to be used for Christian Schools International’s (CSI) Christian Education Week. All over the country, all over the world, this picture would adorn church bulletins, Christian schools and church hallways. Wherever Christian education was happening, wherever people were giving money to CSI, so, too, would be this picture. And when I learned the picture was of me–ME!?–well, I immediately thought of investing in a new set of scented markers (specifically the brown, cinnamon ones, as they were the most delicious). I was going to be signing a lot of autographs. Who knows, I might even get to meet Punky Brewster…and we’d get married. My biggest hope, however, was that my face would be plastered around the shimmering halls of the Crystal Cathedral, that giant Fortress-of-Solitude-Church out there in TV Land. Maybe that squared-jawed, silver-haired preacher would even mention my name.

    TheDream

    Of course, when Christian Education Week arrived and ushers doled out those glossy bulletins all across America…nothing. really. happened. There were extras smiles from the old ladies at church, a few praises from Sunday school teachers, and some extra candies from the suit pocket of an older man who looked like Abe Lincoln. And that was about it. My parents framed a copy and hung it in the upstairs hallway. I autographed one poster…but, it was my own.

    Autograph

    My autograph…in pencil.

    Years went by and soon the image and what it stood for began to haunt me. It was a holy haunting, to be sure. Not because my talent still remained “unrecognized” or I missed my “15 minutes of fame” or I failed to court Ms. Brewster, but because of the three bold and serifed words stamped across the top:

    Educating God's Children

    According to CSI’s marketing campaign–this image–I was a child of God. I was literally the poster boy for all of God’s children. As a 20-something kid, when I looked at that poster, I  couldn’t help but think someone, somewhere, had made a big mistake. I certainly was not a child of God. At that time, I was a floundering mess. I would look at that picture and think: what would these people say if they saw me now? Child of God? Not even close!  I would look at that picture, that reminder, of who I was and see nothing but failure.

    A few more years passed, I straightened out a bit (and I stress ‘a bit’). I was moving some of my old stuff from boxes to tupperware tubs, when I found the old autographed poster, again. This time, though, something was different. I started to think what if I actually am a child of God? What if I’ve been wrong? What if, for some reason, those people at CSI saw in me, then, something God knew I would struggle to see in myself? What if I chose to to trust, to believe, what some stranger with a camera captured so long ago? What if this is God’s faithful reminder? What if I really am a child of God? Not only that, what if I chose to live into that memory?

    Today, this silly, self-autographed, picture hangs in my bedroom. When I forget who I am (and I forget a lot), and I’m floundering or wandering or fighting in myself or in life or whatever, I turn to this picture. It re-orients me: I am a child of God. It reminds to live into that memory, to trust that God is my loving father, that he is working in and through all things, all the time. It reminds that I am free to explore and learn, and that I will never be abandoned or alone. It reminds me to seek forgiveness and humility, to hope. Most of all, it reminds me to live out the grace that I have received.

    In Episode 7: Church, “living out a memory” has a name. It’s called Anamnesis. It means “lived memory.” It happens when we bring a past experience to the present, but more than just by remembering it in our heads, it’s when we live it out. It shows up in the Bible a lot. When the Israelites celebrated Passover, that was anamnesis. When Joshua built a memorial to God after crossing the Jordan River, that was anamnesis. When Jesus instructed, “Do this in remembrance of me,” that is anamnesis, too. For us today, when we receive communion, Jesus is saying more than just, “Hey, intellectually think about and remember me breaking my body and spilling my blood for you.” He’s saying, in this physical act, bring my sacrifice to the present and even more–live out the memory of my offering in your present circumstances–be a gift for the life of the world.

    We need these physical reminders along the journey. The road to glory, more times that not, is one befuddling situation after the next. We need mile-markers, signs of life, to remind us of our Hope. We need ways to recognize God’s faithfulness, his promises, in the brokenness of the here and now. It is so easy to forget. It is so easy to lose our way. As a church, we are called to remember and to live the memory of God’s promises in the world. And so now I’m curious. Do you have any reminders in your life of God’s faithfulness? A picture, a pile of rocks, a do-hickey, or a tattoo even? Do you have something that re-orients you to living out God’s promises? Share a photo or story in the comments or on our Facebook page. Live the memory. Lord knows we need ‘em.

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    • curtisrose

      A very special piece of memorabilia for me is the 45 caliber ‘full metal jacket” slug i mounted on a bracelet several years ago. A bit over 45 years ago, i was in Vietnam, still as young and out-of-control as i had been since the age of 12. One afternoon the above mentioned bullet bounced off of my forehead; and really got my attention! Here is (i am quoting “Paul Harvey” here) “the rest of the story”:

      THE DEATH OF worry /THE BIRTH
      OF GRATITUDE

      (Beginning to learn to be
      “…thankful for all things…” Ephesians 5:20)

      By Curtis Delk Rose

      I
      could never have guessed that some of the deep-rooted fears

      that
      had haunted me in my childhood and

      tormented
      me into my adulthood

      would
      be totally destroyed by

      a
      stray machine-gun slug

      crashing

      into

      my

      forehead.

      As
      an only child of a single mom, raised in the stifling atmosphere of an
      ultra-strict religious movement during the “fifties”, i grew into an angry and
      rebellious young teen. Shortly after
      turning seventeen, i joined the army (August 1963), fulfilling one of my
      childhood dreams. The rigors of Basic and Advanced Training were disciplined
      enough for me to feel the comfort of a watchful, masculine eye for the first
      time in my life; and i actually enjoyed my time spent there. However, after i
      was shipped to Germany and assigned to regular duty, my old restless spirit and dissatisfaction’s surfaced again. Drunkenness,
      lack of respect for authority, and my ability to be “Absent With-Out Leave” for
      weeks at a time gave me a chance to fulfill my other childhood dream. “Going to prison.” After being AWOL for a month, turning myself
      in, and then going AWOL again while on house arrest, i was immediately court-

      martialed, reduced to the
      lowest pay-grade, and sentenced to four months in a military prison. (i later learned many boys that are cursed
      with the lack of a good father have an innate longings to be “told what to do”,
      and for the company for other men; possibilities for which the military and
      prison provide ample opportunities.)

      When i was reassigned to Vietnam as a combat photographer
      in September of 1966, the rebellious spirit within me was turned up another
      notch. I was introduced to marijuana a day or so after arriving at the
      reception station in Long Binh. After
      being assigned to the 69th Signal Battalion at Tan Son Nhut AFB,
      amphetamines, barbiturates (available without prescription at Vietnamese
      pharmacies) also became part of my daily life.
      The effects of reading about “hippies” in Life and Look
      magazines, and the music i was absorbing, rapidly made deep changes in my
      lifestyle. After deciding that the scene
      in Haight Ashbury would be more fun than anything the military could offer i
      began to work at finding a way back into civilian life without waiting for my
      discharge date. I began to carry my
      poetry and other artwork attempts around in a black plastic document bag, “everywhere”
      i went. Any time i was in a room alone
      with a senior NCO or Officer, i would make noises and act like i didn’t notice
      that i had. In a short time, my
      superiors made an appointment for me with an army psychiatrist. i was only in his office for a few minutes
      when he cleared me for a mentally unfit discharge. As i was being processed, my platoon sergeant
      (an even-tempered, generous man whom i will never forget

      took me aside and said,
      “Curtis, I hate to see you get a bad discharge.
      Is there anything we could do to help you get through the rest of your
      tour here without any further trouble?”
      i suggested that he send me to our detachment at Cam Rahn Bay, where i
      had several friends that i’d not seen for awhile.

      When i got off the plane in Cam Rahn, i was really
      stoned. Wandering into the 3rd
      Corp Air Transport Quonset hut to ask for directions, i saw on the wall behind
      the counter a cardboard sign that read “Good Gospel Singing, Pentecostal
      Services,” (stenciled with colored pencils in a circle), the time and
      location printed in the center. In that
      condition, i thought to myself, “Hey!
      i’ll have to go down there sometime!
      Maybe i’ll meet somebody that knows my Mom.” Little did i know that GOD would be there
      waiting for me, and HE was very well acquainted with my Mother, in part due to
      the years she had spent Praying so seriously for me.

      A few weeks later, i took one of our jeeps to the South
      Beach Chapel, where fifty or more officers and enlisted men sang songs of
      worship that i remembered from my childhood.
      One young man from New York City testified about the wonderful changes
      in his life since he had received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit; (just the
      week before!) with such a buoyancy and glow that i knew immediately that he had
      just exactly what I wanted.

      i joined a prayer group that met weekly; i began to read a
      New Testament i got from the Chapel and to memorize favorite Scriptures. i was even baptized

      in the Name of Jesus in the
      South China Sea. But, because of
      childhood hang-

      overs of not understanding
      God’s grace, i still possessed the fearful feeling of not being one of ‘God’s
      own’. Those old fears rose up with a
      vengeance, terrifying me with the possibility of being killed while on a
      mission before i was able to “dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s”, according
      to the requirements of the brand of Pentecostalism i had grown up in. i was growing more serious about my
      relationship with God, but the fear of death and missing out on Heaven
      continued to dwell in my thoughts; after all, i had not yet “worked out” my own
      salvation. It was like a recurring
      dream. As far back as grade school, i
      had been an easy target for
      bullies. Too frightened to fight back, i
      just suffered through the humiliation as best i could. When i grew older, the same thing would often
      happen in a bar or at a party—as though i had a sign hanging over my head that
      read, “Hey! Beat this guy up!” Now, i was being bullied and beaten up once
      again, but this time by an invisible (and more powerful) foe.

      Sitting in a straight-back chair at a desk in our base
      photo office, i had just finished a letter to my Mom. i tilted the chair back with my fingers laced
      behind my head to stretch a bit, as i lowered the front legs of the chair to
      the floor, there was a sound like a truck backfire, something hit me in my head
      and knocked me out into the middle of the room.
      Jumping back up, i threw my left hand to my forehead and began to run
      down the long rectangle of the room i was in, toward the exit nearest our
      bunker, certain that we were under

      attack. i had not reached the end of the room when i
      noticed i was the only one running! i
      turned around and looked down the room through the doorway

      near where i had been sitting,
      into the front office. Several of the
      guys were sitting in a circle “shooting the breeze” when i noticed one fellow,
      with whom I had gone to photo school, grinning at me, as if my joke was pretty
      good, but he was the only one who had gotten it. i remember thinking to myself, “Well, i’ll show you!” i walked to where he sat, took my hand off my
      forehead. and the blood began to run down my face. The look on his face was well worth the walk
      to where he was. The smile went away immediately. i sat down on the floor cross-legged, never
      lost consciousness, but for several minutes my mind was like a broken
      record. Over and over and over again it
      repeated: “Thank You Jesus! Thank You Jesus! Thank You
      Jesus! Thank You Jesus!

      A short time passed, when the door to our Lieutenant’s
      office opened and he stepped out to assess the damage. He and a young Second Lieutenant (who had
      just arrived “in country”) had been examining a “trophy weapon” that had been
      captured from the Viet Cong. It was a
      Thompson 45-caliber drum-feed machine-gun (favored by the gangsters in the
      movies) which had probably been captured from the French years before. My Lieutenant said the “new guy” had placed
      the weapon on his desk (not realizing that the safety mechanism was set on
      “full cock” with a round in the chamber) and the jar of touching the
      desk released a round, piercing through the wall of his office, through the
      corner of the developing lab and into the room where i was sitting.
      Traveling on a slight incline, it ricocheted off the Masonite ceiling, then
      slamming into my forehead.

      We all knew that if i was taken to the base hospital
      to be checked out for an injury caused by a bullet, there would have to be an
      investigation, due the base commander’s policy of no one “ever” having a loaded
      weapon. So, after the bleeding stopped,
      (in just a few minutes!) i was driven to our tent and given the remainder
      of the day off. i didn’t even suffer a
      headache. Since it was so hot in the big
      tent we slept in, i walked all the way back to our
      air-conditioned office and spent the rest of the day there, never again
      fearing an accident, death, or injury. i
      was firmly convinced that if God wanted to take care of me, He was perfectly
      capable of doing so; there was no reason for me to worry any longer.

      In the years that followed, i often pondered about my
      mind’s immediate response to the sudden accident. i believe it was God’s Spirit within me that
      prompted my brain to utter the words of thankfulness. Now, as i look back over the years and
      into my Christian infancy, i can see this was the first step in my journey
      toward beginning to learn about “Giving thanks always for all things . .
      .” (Ephesians 5:20); “In
      everything give thanks…” (I Thessalonians 5:18); and, “. . . all
      things work together for good . . .” (Romans 8:28). No matter how difficult or painful
      circumstances seem to be at the moment, if we are honest in our attempt to live
      a life pleasing to God, maintaining a Thankful Spirit for God’s Mercy (which
      endures forever), will always be a giant step in the right direction (His
      direction).

      P.S. If You have noticed that i try to use the
      lower case “i” when making reference to myself, and are interested in the “why”
      of my decision to do so, please read the following Poem.

      SOCIAL PROTEST I

      or

      “Why

      i

      Always Try To Remember

      To Lower Case My Own

      Personal Pronoun”

      Oh! English Language!

      i have somewhat to say unto
      thee!

      Your self importance

      and

      pride

      have passed

      the abomination level.

      Where did you get the right

      to uppercase

      YOUR

      personal pronoun

      and lowercase the rest?

      How did your single

      “I”

      become so much more important

      than

      a whole world full of

      “YOU’s”?

      Curtis Delk Rose

      1995

      curtis4888@mchsi.com

      • FLOW_Evan

        Wow! Thank you for sharing!

        • curtisrose

          i thank U for the inspiration, and the opportunity 2 share! But sorry that i did not take the time 2 check and see if it had ‘pasted’ into the page correctly; i see this evening that it did not. (but i just found the “Edit” button!) i really enjoy the way You write; and “For the Life of the World” and “Letters To The Exiles” r two of the coolest expressions i have ever heard. AND, having Makoto Fujimura on board, to me, is a huge plus. i love his writing too; his paintings are beyond my earthly grasp. i will sit down with him, (when we r no longer ‘exiles’) and have a really long listen ‘with’ him. If i post again, i’ll probably be a bit less verbose.

    • Andy Vaughn

      I love it! We need constant reminders of our past victories and revelations along the way. Our pathway is littered with words from God that we have forgotten. Ah, how patient he is with his children:) Thank you for sharing it in such a vivid way, and for the throwback to Punky…she really was all that and a bag of Cheetos!

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