Monday, May 19, 2008


I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
- Ps 77:11

We had the experience but missed the meaning,
And approach to the meaning restores the experience
In a different form, beyond any meaning
We can assign to happiness.
- T. S. Eliot

I woke up the other morning feeling a bit nostalgic—perhaps it's the move, my birthday, the wonderful barrage of life's changes over the past few weeks. Attention to the past can be a barrier: I know my own anxiety, guilt, and regret over some past actions and experiences. But I've realized how memory can also be a wonderful vehicle for the spiritual life and can be helpful to us, just as it was for the Israelites who were constantly re-telling the story of God's faithfulness towards them. Remembering our past—the seeming drudgeries, as well as the profound successes and defeats—with eyes to see God's presence grounds us in our own shared story with God and God's people. Our memory is an essential part of our identity.

I wish that contemplative awareness had permeated my life to the degree that I could be completely present to every moment as it's happening; but often I have the experience as if I'm watching someone else live it, my mind busy with other considerations or distractions. Thankfully, as Eliot says, we might re-approach any experience with our eyes open and catch a glimpse of God's meaning. I read once that one should take some time at the end of every day to think back over the day's events and consider God's presence throughout and thank God for it. I hope I might learn to live by that discipline.

To share some of the things I remember from the past weeks: our landlady, who is abrupt and sometimes hostile, took ten minutes to give Erica and me very helpful advice about Nashville; riding my bike, a man sitting in a gas station waiting to get into a huge line of traffic waved me in front of him and perhaps missed his chance because of his kindness; a friend I had never met took me out for lunch and guided me all over the eight floors of the Vanderbilt library looking for employment; a small child in the neighborhood behind our apartment complex saw us walking and peered out the door and heartily waved at us; and, of course, I wake up every morning next to my beautiful new wife. I'm thankful.

--John Orzechowski


living stones said...

John, thanks for posting. I really love what you have to say. I think that the intersections of memory and present moment are a rich subject for exploration. Your reflections on it are edifying. I really appreciate your last paragraph: All of it (especially your comment about Erica--Praise God!). Excellent attention to the moments and awareness of grace. Thanks. --Paul Corrigan

living stones said...

John, thank you for this very meaningful, very insightful entry. Lovely expression. (I think the last paragraph could be "shaped" into a poem without too much work!)
I'm grateful for you and this reflection--
--Rickey Cotton

Mark Wills said...

I keep telling everyone that TN is a great place to live!!! :-)

Glad you are getting settled into Nashville. You'll have to show me the ropes when I get there in a few months.

living stones said...

John, this is a wonderful reflectiion. Even as I read it, I was able to slow down and see how the little things you noted were valuable. I'm grateful to be reminded to celebrate God's faithfulness. I agree with Rickey--you have a poem in waiting. And I really, really liked your ending! Thanks--Anna

living stones said...

John, this is an awesome reminder to slow down and remember God's presence in each moment! I really appreciate remembering that, especially this week. Thank you for that! --Jennifer

Daniel said...

John, I just want to agree with what everyone's said here. I miss you and look forward to speaking soon voice-to-voice.

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