Memorial Day 2011 is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May (May 30 in 2011). Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. soldiers who died during military service. First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the Civil War, it was extended after World War I to honor Americans who had died serving in all our wars. Memorial Day often marks the start of the summer vacation season. Sadly, for many that's as far as it goes.
Begun as a ritual of remembrance and reconciliation after the Civil War, by the early 20th century, Memorial Day had become an occasion for more general expressions of memory, as ordinary citizens visited the graves of their deceased relatives, whether they had served in the military or not. It also became a long weekend increasingly devoted to shopping, family get-togethers, fireworks, trips to the beach, and national media events such as the Indianapolis 500, held since 1911 on Memorial Day.
On this occasion, today, I'd like to offer yet another memorial for you to consider, that being what I refer to as a Memorial to the Moment.I believe all of our deraly departed fighting men and women would agree with this message.
In the 4th Chapter of Joshua, we find a terrific example of a Memorial to a Moment and what it means. It says: "...when all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD spoke to Joshua, saying, "Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe, and command them: 'Take up for yourselves twelve stones from out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests' feet are standing firm, and carry them over with you, and lay them down in the lodging place where you will lodge tonight.'" So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the sons of Israel and said to them, "Cross again to the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel... And he said... "When your children ask their fathers in time to come, 'What are these stones?' you shall inform your children, saying, 'Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.' "For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan until you had crossed, just as the LORD your God had done to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, so that you may fear the LORD your God forever."
Webster's New World Dictionary defines the word "memorial" as something that serves to help people remember some person or event. A memorial can be a structure of some sort, like a monument, a statue, a pile of stones, or it can also be a holiday like Memorial Day.
When it came to my own walk of faith, nothing has meant as much to my own personal victory and power as when I truly forgave everyone who had ever hurt me. Years ago, a cassette tape on the subject of "Forgiveness" was making the rounds in our congregation. People quickly passed it along, no one feeling as if they actually needed it. Eventually, it wound up with me. Reluctantly, I listened. At one point, I prayed and asked the Holy Spirit to reveal to me anyone who had ever hurt me in any way, even if they weren't aware of the pain they'd caused me. I began writing down the names and the offenses I'd experienced. Grand total: Over 300 names requiring my prayerful and sincere forgiveness.
So I began the act of forgiveness. In some cases, I prayed a heartfelt prayer, releasing my offenders and their descendants from any guilt or blame, and I blessed them. In other cases, I wrote letters, telling people I had forgiven them, with some VERY interesting results. In a few cases, I spoke with my offenders face-to-face and had meaningful, at times, tearful, moments of reconciliation.
Among those offenses requiring my forgiveness were a few "biggies"; those offenses which caused me the greatest measure of pain. What those offenses were is hardly as important as what I felt lead to DO about them; I built a Memorial to the Moment.
In one case, I wrote the terrible offense on a piece of paper and burned it.
For several others, I wrote the offense on paper and buried them.
Where a third tormenting offense was concerned, I was so thrilled at the release I felt by offering up prayers of blessing and forgiveness, I simply ran to the commode and flushed the offense on paper without giving the matter a second thought.
Our adversary, the devil, who had kept me in bondage for decades, who had been bringing those sinful offenses to my memory for decades, occasionally tries to open those old wounds, but to no avail. Every time he comes against my mind with one of those old offenses, all I have to do is remember the Memorial to the Moment, then I remind HIM of the day I built that Memorial to the Moment. When he reminds me of my past, I remind him of his future. His power over me is gone! The curse, broken. All because God has given me the grace, and a powerful exercise, to forgive those who knew not what they were doing to me.
Frankly, I don't believe there's a departed soldier in any of our memories who has experienced the unspeakable joy of seeing and living with King Jesus who wouldn't encourage their mortal descendants – yourself perhaps - to engage in this forgiveness process and stop dragging any non-productive, burdensome offenses around like a ball and chain. "Life is too short," they might say. "Love and forgive those people who hurt you. It's simply not worth it to carry grudges and seek vengeance against those who probably had no idea how their offense would impact your life."
These days, I'm very quick to forgive. On occasion, because He knows how much I want my slate to be clean, the Holy Spirit will lovingly tap me and say, "Michael, what about so-and-so... don't you want to forgive them as well?"
And I do, quickly.
Ask the Lord to reveal to YOU anyone who has sinned against you. Pray a prayer of sincere blessing and forgiveness over each one. In some cases, you may want to build your OWN Memorial to the Moment. Maybe today - Memorial Day 2011 - can be YOUR day, the day when you broke away from an offensive bondage that has held you captive for years.
I believe an Army of Deceased soldiers – all of them more alive now than they ever were - would join as one in saluting you, followed by a chorus of celebratory victory shouts, as if a major battle had been won and an enemy had been defeated!
The truth is, an enemy HAS been defeated and a victory HAS been won.
Let's honor our fallen loved ones this, beginning now with this Memorial Day, by living the life of an overcomer, a life lived for the cause of Christ, unhindered by the pain of the past.
Founder, The Church @ Work (TCAW)
Lord, we thank you for the grace we need in order to receive healing for the loss of our beloved Warriors and the grace required in order to forgive those who – whether they realized it or not – have offended us in the past. May THIS Memorial Day be one of personal victory, a day where many will remember the offenses of the past no more. It's in Jesus' Name - Lord of the Past, Present and Future - that we pray. Amen!
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