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  • Ross Moughtin

When we view our memories

At two frames a second, it’s going to take months, even years! And for years I’ve been waiting for the technology to arrive at a price I could afford. And yesterday it arrived. My Reflecta film scanner allows me to digitalise our family films in both standard as well as super 8mm formats. And I have boxes of them. Not just my father’s (who started movie-making in 1961), uncles John and Harry’s collections but my very own, upto the early 1980s on my now-faithfully-departed Fujica P3000 cine camera. To have digitalised recordings of our family’s past is going to be invaluable; they can be easily edited and more to the point, easily shared. I’ll probably upload to YouTube for friends as well as the wider family. Some months ago I had one of my father’s 5 inch films digitalised by a specialist company. From an August Sunday afternoon in 1962, it featured our family (including a camera-shy me) messing about on Waterloo beach at the bottom of our road, where I spent most of my childhood. Okay, the picture quality by today’s standards was poor and my father’s camera work was never brilliant. However, it portrays a bygone past for today the beach is no longer there, replaced by the marina and coastal park. I was able to share an edited version with the Waterloo and Seaforth Facebook group. There was a huge response as people were able to see a distant memory, Waterloo beach in its prime. However, visiting the past can be a dangerous venture. To quote the oft-quoted L P Hartley: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." We forget how much things have changed; more to the point, how we have changed. To say the obvious I am not the same person as the me of 1962: I can’t simply step into my past except as a visitor from a different era. And our memories are selective, something we need to remember!. For myself I can so easily indulge in nostalgia. As writer Finley Peter Dunne muses: “The past always looks better than it was. It's only pleasant because it isn't here.” But there again, as any psychologist knows, there are whole areas of our past which we would rather forget. We probably have, or at least, think we have. However, we can’t simply cut them out with iMovie. Like or it not, past traumas can so easily manipulate our present, even without our realizing it. So how do we handle the past so that we may thrive in the present? The good news as Christians is that as we surrender our lives to Christ, we offer him our entire past. Wherever we have been, whatever may have happened to us, he takes on and sorts out. He initiates a healing process. I recall one woman coming to Christ following the distress of a broken relationship; she was given a strange quote from the Old Testament: “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.” (Joel 2:25). God’s purpose was to compensate for her past hurts, even use them to bless. In God’s scarred hands our past is never wasted. I’ve been using the excellent CofE Lent course, #LiveLent, where the theme is God’s story. (It’s not too late to join). From day two: “The Gospel is not primarily a set of doctrinal propositions or metaphysical beliefs but a story. It’s the story of God and God's engagement with the world. It reaches its climax in the life of Jesus. And the story of Jesus hangs on this extraordinary plot twist, that the man who had died was alive again.” The cross and resurrection of Jesus is the event in the past which in our baptism into Christ we make it our own, even as the defining centre. Whatever lies in our past, good and bad, the Holy Spirit may use for us to flourish in Jesus’ name. That’s why we read the Bible. Seeing God at work, understanding his modus operandi and learning to trust him in all situations. We begin to reflect on our past, seeing how God has worked in our lives, not always obvious at the time.. And so what seemed at the time difficult, we now realise he was using for our good. Joseph addresses his brothers prostrate before him: “You plotted evil against me, but God turned it into good, in order to preserve the lives of many people who are alive today because of what happened” (Genesis 50:20) Alternatively we learn to discard any rose-tinted glasses we might happen to possess. I had to laugh when I came across this quote from agony-aunt Ann Landers: “Rose-coloured glasses are never made in bifocals. Nobody wants to read the small print in dreams.” For when it comes to people, the Bible writers are unsparingly realist. King David, for one, is shown for all his accomplishments as a flawed human being. God knows us through and through, every event in our past – and his loving kindness is in no way diminished. The apostle Paul once again had time to ponder as once again he finds himself in a Roman dungeon. He could ask the question, of course: “How on earth did I get here?” And no doubt, in the dark he struggled with painful memories. But looking back on his varied experiences (and we know he had a lot!), he could write: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.” (Philippians 4:12) And knowing how God has worked in the past, he can joyfully conclude “I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.( (Philippians 4:12f the Message translation) The good news for this day is that God will use our past, all of it, to fulfil his plans for the future. That’s his gift for our present. #memory #remembering

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