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What I’ve Gained From Memory Loss

The very poor memory of the fish, Dory, in the Pixar blockbuster Finding Nemo, may make her character cute and loveable to most. On my bad days, however, she is my celebrity doppelganger.

About five years ago, I was a buckled passenger in a near fatal car accident. I’ve been blessed with a remarkable recovery, but my lasting injuries include a scar across my forehead, along with my somewhat rotten short-term memory. It’s been really difficult going from being a type-A, organized, over-achiever, to suddenly becoming forgetful and very easily confused!

Even though I can pat myself on the back for the number of compensatory strategies I‘ve learned to employ, I’ve had many instances of grieving the recently acquired need for such strategies. But, in my more mature moments, I can admit how my difficulty with short-term memory has taught me some valuable lessons.

 

1. Forgive as though as you have memory loss

For most of you, the forgetting part after forgiving someone is just not a possibility. Try as you might, you can’t always will yourself to completely forget something.

Do you still have a grudge against your friend for that incident two years ago? Do you often experience frustration with a family member over his or her choice in priorities? Pray that God would grant you the miracle of forgiveness and seek to replace any ungracious thoughts with uplifting ones.

 

2. Live in the Moment

Aiming to “live in the moment” may just sound like a catch phrase, but particularly in the early days of my recovery, my memory loss made it a necessity to do so. During that time, it was really challenging to identify what day of the week it was, the year, even my own age. I was 24 years old at that time, but, in different situations, confidently stated I was anywhere between 14 and 30.

Although I’m a planner by nature, I was experiencing an alternate reality, one that was devoid of time. So, a positive outcome of my memory loss was learning to appreciate the present. There is a time to plan and prepare for the future, but amid the busyness of normal life, try to stop for a minute. Instead of always thinking ahead, acknowledge who and what is currently surrounding you.

 

3. Be Grateful for Every Little Thing

Add to your awareness of the present, gratitude for each moment. In 1 Thess. 5:18, we’re instructed to “give thanks in all circumstances”, so I challenge you to give this a shot. Take a minute from your day to pause and really soak in what you are grateful for in that exact moment.

What are you gathering through your five senses that could otherwise slip by unnoticed? Try writing down at least one thing every day that you appreciate, without any repeats, forming a journal of gratitude that can be looked at and prayed over whenever. I am not advocating a perspective in which you discount life’s difficulties, rather, simply acknowledge the blessings. For example, I grieved not being able to run, but in its absence, I recognized more of the incredible skills that I used every day (like sight and hearing).

A significant loss I’ve experienced is my ability to play cello due to the weakness in my left arm and hand. Now, nearly five years later, I can acknowledge this life-changing loss, but I am also able to articulate gratitude for ever having had those musical abilities. If you need to ask God for a right and grateful perspective, know that you’re not alone! And, if you’re not at the point of being grateful for an outcome, you can still honor God by telling Him that you trust His sovereignty, despite the painful consequences of being on this side of heaven.

You can include in a daily journal of gratitude any of the mental and physical skills you may take for granted. Only when I couldn’t do many of the physical activities I loved (like run, rock climb, swim . . . ) did I realize how much I valued them. Likewise, suddenly experiencing difficulty with short-term memory opened my eyes to the importance of that ability in everyday life. If memory loss has taught me anything, it’s to not wait till I lose something before I start to value it.

 

As you take proactive steps toward fully appreciating the blessings in each moment, you may become increasingly aware that life is fickle, here today and gone tomorrow. Do not allow the brevity of life rob you of enjoying the present. We do not know what tomorrow holds, but relax! Know that through Jesus, our eternal home is secure and the best is yet to come!

When Christmas Isn’t the Happiest Time of the Year

With the joyful endings of cheesy, Hallmark movies, comes the subconscious expectation that somehow during Christmas, everyone will get along, then snowflakes will fall at precisely the right time and in a perfect quantity.

It would make a terrible greeting card, but for many people, Christmas isn’t the “Happiest time of the year”, but actually one of the most difficult.

For me, this season will forever be tied to the anniversary of the big car accident that nearly took my life, four years ago and just five days before Christmas. Of all seasons, it is in this one that my family and I are most aware of our mortality and that nothing on this side of heaven can be taken for granted.

A season that often incorporates time with family also makes strained relationships or absences excruciatingly clear. The annual nativity plays prepared by my large group of cousins when we were kids provides a perfect example. Soon after announcing that a play was going to be attempted, a disagreement would often ensue over who was directing, the make and model of Mary’s donkey, and the finer points of the bible story and the parts to be enacted. It would often end with Mary or Joseph concluding the final rehearsal on non-speaking terms with the other party.

Our little nativity plays dealt with quite a set of high-maintenance actors and directors, so problems were aplenty right from the onset, for instance, pinning down roles. One year, my 5-year-old cousin exclaimed that he refused to be “no stupid wise shepherd!” Our cast also included actors with a reputation for quitting just moments before curtain call.

My family provided foster care for many precious infants, whose presence sometimes coincided perfectly to allow for a real, live, baby Jesus in our nativity plays. When this was the case, Mary, and sometimes a wise man or two, would become aggressive lobbyists for the job of cradling baby Jesus.

So, on a nearly annual basis, our little plays would unintentionally point to the real fact of Christmas: its occurrence was an act of divine intervention, requiring the awe and wonder of all. We would have kept the true Christmas spirit much more accurately had the pervading emotion been one of grace for our fellow actors (or sheep, as the case may be).

While we now laugh off those childish expectations for a Broadway worthy nativity reenactment, the fact remains that we still do—consciously or not—set impossibly high hopes of this day, and get disappointed if it turns out otherwise. Don’t get me wrong, it may still be one of your best days ever, filled with lots of warm-and-fuzzy moments and meaningful gifts. But it’s just as likely to be far from perfect and make you extremely aware that you’re not in heaven yet.

This year, how about this for a change? Expect that not everything will be perfect, laugh about the mishaps and then strive to fill your heart with gratitude. Shift the focus from your wish list, to the greatest gift of salvation, which you’ve already received. Let our love for others flow out of our thankfulness to God for His gift of salvation to us.

 

 

 

ODJ: the gratitude test

How do you discover God’s will in disputable matters? One believer in Jesus orders a glass of wine in a restaurant, while another believes drinking alcohol is wrong. One invites you to see a film that someone else will not view due to its violence and profanity. So how do you make a decision on whether or not to do something when even mature Christians disagree over it?

This question troubled the church in Rome. Some Christians felt obligated to observe Jewish dietary and Sabbath laws, while others believed they no longer applied. Paul sided with the latter, but he thought that was beside the point. More important than who was right was how everyone got along. Paul offered three questions that apply to any decision:

Am I violating another believer’s freedom? Paul told those who possess a weaker faith not to condemn those who “eat certain foods” or “think every day is alike” (Romans 14:3-10). Each person must answer to God, who alone “will judge whether they stand or fall” (v.4). We must give each other space to stand before God, condemning only activities that Scripture clearly indicates are wrong.

Will this edify other believers? Paul warned stronger believers in Jesus not to flaunt their freedom, for they could “ruin someone for whom Christ died” (v.15). The right thing done in the wrong way is still sin. Paul explained, “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble” (v.21).

—Mike Wittmer

365-day-plan: Luke 17:20-37

August 21, 2015 

READ: Romans 14:1-23 


Those who eat any kind of food do so to honour the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord (v.6). 

How do you discover God’s will in disputable matters? One believer in Jesus orders a glass of wine in a restaurant, while another believes drinking alcohol is wrong. One invites you to see a film that someone else will not view due to its violence and profanity. So how do you make a decision on whether or not to do something when even mature Christians disagree over it?

This question troubled the church in Rome. Some Christians felt obligated to observe Jewish dietary and Sabbath laws, while others believed they no longer applied. Paul sided with the latter, but he thought that was beside the point. More important than who was right was how everyone got along. Paul offered three questions that apply to any decision:

Am I violating another believer’s freedom? Paul told those who possess a weaker faith not to condemn those who “eat certain foods” or “think every day is alike” (Romans 14:3-10). Each person must answer to God, who alone “will judge whether they stand or fall” (v.4). We must give each other space to stand before God, condemning only activities that Scripture clearly indicates are wrong.

Will this edify other believers? Paul warned stronger believers in Jesus not to flaunt their freedom, for they could “ruin someone for whom Christ died” (v.15). The right thing done in the wrong way is still sin. Paul explained, “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble” (v.21).

—Mike Wittmer

365-day-plan: Luke 17:20-37

MORE
Read 1 Corinthians 10:23–11:1 to learn how to use your freedom responsibly in disputable matters. 
NEXT
Why is it vital that you consider other believers’ views instead of forcing your own on them? How can the gratitude test help with a decision you need to make today? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODJ: thanks and peace

As the father of four children, I tell them four words nearly every day: “You should be thankful!” I say it to them during dinner when they turn up their noses at vegetables. I say it to them when they want to get a toy that “all” their friends have. For my kids, and I suspect for many of us, giving thanks to God is an individual discipline—the proper response to what He’s done.

In Philippians 4, however, Paul reveals that the effects of thanksgiving aren’t merely personal, but interpersonal. The context of Paul’s teaching included two sisters in Christ who were embroiled in a bitter disagreement (v.2)—something all of us can relate to. The apostle didn’t tell them to rejoice and give thanks simply for personal reasons, but because doing so also allowed them to make peace with one another. When disagreements arise, our instinct is to think badly of the person we’re in conflict with, something that makes us more hard-hearted towards them. Instead, if we choose to give thanks for all of God’s blessings, we gain a healthy perspective and some emotional space—both vital for forgiveness to be extended.

This teaching meshes well with the parable of the unforgiving debtor (Matthew 18:21-35). The debtor—though forgiven a great deal—wouldn’t forgive the small debt of another. If he had only taken a moment to give thanks for the greater debt he had been forgiven, it’s likely he would have been more forgiving towards others.

—Peter Chin

365-day-plan: Luke 9:28-45

July 23, 2015 

READ: Philippians 4:2-9 


Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace (vv.6-7). 

As the father of four children, I tell them four words nearly every day: “You should be thankful!” I say it to them during dinner when they turn up their noses at vegetables. I say it to them when they want to get a toy that “all” their friends have. For my kids, and I suspect for many of us, giving thanks to God is an individual discipline—the proper response to what He’s done.

In Philippians 4, however, Paul reveals that the effects of thanksgiving aren’t merely personal, but interpersonal. The context of Paul’s teaching included two sisters in Christ who were embroiled in a bitter disagreement (v.2)—something all of us can relate to. The apostle didn’t tell them to rejoice and give thanks simply for personal reasons, but because doing so also allowed them to make peace with one another. When disagreements arise, our instinct is to think badly of the person we’re in conflict with, something that makes us more hard-hearted towards them. Instead, if we choose to give thanks for all of God’s blessings, we gain a healthy perspective and some emotional space—both vital for forgiveness to be extended.

This teaching meshes well with the parable of the unforgiving debtor (Matthew 18:21-35). The debtor—though forgiven a great deal—wouldn’t forgive the small debt of another. If he had only taken a moment to give thanks for the greater debt he had been forgiven, it’s likely he would have been more forgiving towards others.

—Peter Chin

365-day-plan: Luke 9:28-45

MORE
Read Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:13 for additional reasons why we should always give thanks and forgive one another. 
NEXT
In what ways have you been blessed or forgiven by God? In light of these gifts, is there someone who you should try to make peace with today? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)