Labor Day…and an 11-month memory

How many of us have ever heard the of having an 11-month memory?  It refers to the tendency to remember things more recent while tending to forgetting things longer ago.  The idea goes that while some of us can easily recall what we did, say, for Christmas last year, fewer of us can recall what we were doing at this time last year. Sometimes I can experience the opposite, where I can tell you what I did last year, but I have to work really hard to remember what I did last week.  Anybody with me on that?

As we approach significant dates such as Labor Day, or traditional religious dates, such as Easter and Christmas, I like to look back to see some of the things we were doing and saying a year ago.  It’s hard to believe that a year ago, parts of Texas and Louisiana were just beginning to recover from the devastating flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.  Perhaps you’ve seen stories in the news this week recalling those events from a year ago.  One particular report recalled how NFL player and Houston Texans’ superstar defensive-end, J.J. Watt, made a post on August 27th, 2017, challenging people to respond to the devastation by helping him raise $200,000.  Watt gave things a significant jump start by donating 50% out of his own pocket.  As of this past week, Watt’s challenge has led to a whopping $41.6 million given.

Also, last year at this time, another storm was brewing in the eastern Caribbean, and would eventually make landfall in Florida, causing wide-spread destruction and flooding there as well.  And then, just when it seemed like things couldn’t get worse, Puerto Rico and Dominica (Haiti & Dominican Republic) endured one of worst natural disasters in history, and likely the deadliest of any other Atlantic storm – Hurricane Maria.  It was almost appalling to hear this week that despite initial reports last year of 64 dead in Puerto Rico, the official number is now some 50-times greater, with an estimated 2,975 people dead in Puerto Rico alone as a result of Hurricane Maria. And yet, some still argue it could be nearly twice that many.
I remember how overwhelming all this felt 11 months ago. Perhaps you do as well.

How and where do you even begin to respond to something like this?  While many pondered that question, I also recall an amazing act of generosity on behalf of our church by contributing over $8,500 to disaster relief efforts in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico through the work of Preemptive Love Coalitionand Samaritan’s Purse International Relief.  However, consistent with our convictions as a church – that it is not enough to simply give of our finances; we must also be willing to give of our time, energy, talents, relationships, etc – we were able to send a small, but able team to South Florida to serve for the week alongside others from around the country in disaster relief efforts.
Sometimes reflecting takes work, but if all we ever do is work, we seldom have time to reflect.

Reflecting is an essential of the rest God calls each of us into, otherwise known as Sabbath.  This is particularly significant on a weekend when we observe Labor Day – a day that was instituted as a national holiday in 1894.  According to the United States Department of Labor, Labor Day “is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” 

The history of Labor Day in the U.S. is quite tumultuous, birthed out of the industrial revolution of the 19th century, and a societal stand against the wide-spread injustices of inhumane working conditions, unacceptably low wages, and extensively long working hours.  It was not only a people’s cry for justice, it was a people’s pleading for rest under the realization that a life of all work and no rest is a life of captivity and oppression.  Sometimes others are responsible.  Other times, we ourselves are to blame for the our own captivity. 

Regardless, with many getting an extra day off and a longer weekend as a result of Labor Day, may each of us seize the opportunity to reflect.  Because, when we reflect, we are less prone to forget – less prone to forget the people that are still hurting, are still piecing their lives back together, long after the initial rush of response and relief has come and gone.  When we reflect, we are less likely to live our lives as if nothing ever happened, which is so easy to do.  While I’m grateful that God forgets some things (specifically, our sins that have been redeemed through Christ), He never forgets those who are broken and hurting.

Reflecting also renews our confidence in the goodness, faithfulness, and wonder of God.  Reflecting allows us to remember how God has used us in the past to bring relief to others.  Perhaps 12 months from now we will still be reflecting on sending over 250 people into our community for LoveSalisbury, along with the privilege of giving $55,000 to complete Sole Hope’s Shoemaker Warehouse in Jinja, Uganda in recent weeks, which is just the next step in more extravagantly generous gifts we intend to make as a church going forward. 

Man, reflecting sure does my heart good.  It renews my soul.  And that’s precisely the point.

May you take time this weekend to reflect, and in doing so, savor the riches of what God has for us there.  While I will always contend that God is more concerned about our future than our past, it is our reflection on the past that God intends to launch us, and others, into the future.
 One generation shall commend your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
    and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
    and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
    and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
    and his mercy is over all that he has made.

Psalm 145:4-9 (ESV)

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