|3012 20th Ave., Rockford, Illinois|
I was born in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (Hancock). My parents moved to Rockford, Illinois, when I was a year old.
Whenever I return to Rockford I like to walk in my old neighborhood. I've done this many times, carrying my journal + camera with me. I walked it again this past summer.
We lived in the last house on a cul-de-sac - our address was 3012 20th Avenue. I have never forgot our phone number - 399-7931. Adjacent to our house was 25th Street Park. I loved that park! I remember the countless hours I played there with my friends.
That was the late 1950s and 1960s.
I am thankful for my childhood. I could not wait for school to end and summer to begin! I had fun, adventure, and growth that was non-media-driven. We did have TV, but only three stations, and reception depended on which way the antenna on the roof was pointing. I played from sun-up to sundown. I can hear my mother's voice calling me in the dark - "John, it's time to come in!"
My parents have died, but as I walk down 20th Avenue, I remember. I smell my mother's cooking. We rarely ate out. For me that was no loss, since I'll eat from my parents' table any time. Mom loved to cook, and loved to watch us enjoy her cooking. A lot of her esteem came from providing and home-making. She taught me how to make mashed potatoes. I've never met a mashed potato that measured up to my mom's. Her cooking was like encountering Platonic Forms by which all shadowy, insubstantial culinary efforts were to be measured.
I walk to Rolling Green School, where I went from kindergarten through 4th grade. Then to Whitehead Elementary School. Then, Jefferson Junior High School. Finally, to Rockford East High. Whitehead and Jefferson were brand new when I was there. Now, they have aged. Everything here is older. I see the same trees, but they are bigger.
One year my father brought a small pine tree he dug up from the family farm in the Upper Peninsula. He planted it at 3012 20th Avenue. It was so small I could jump over it. Now, sixty years later, it's tall. I walk past it, pick a pine cone, and take it with me back to Michigan. One of these pine cones made it to my office in our church building. I left it there for years. On occasion I held it and thought of my father and mother and family. It is good to do this. Never forget where you are from.
Remembering is sweet for me. I know that's not so for everyone, but it is for me. Therefore, I remember.
- I remember my loving, hard-working parents.
- I remember how they looked after me and fed me and clothed me.
- I remember my mother taking me to a store named Goldblatt's to buy a shirt and a pair of jeans.
- I remember my father, every winter, making an ice rink in our back yard.
- I remember every square inch of that small yard I mowed and played in.
- I remember my mother making "pasties" and fruit pies.
- I remember my father hitting baseballs to me in the park.
- I remember my neighborhood friends.
- I remember the cracks in the sidewalk on 20th Avenue.
- I remember going to our Lutheran Church, and having my father as a Sunday School teacher.
- I remember the smell of the brand new '55 Chevy dad bought - two-tone green.
- I remember our pet dog "Candy."
- I remember sharing a bedroom with my brother Mike.
Spiritually, "remembering" is foundational. Remembering is core Judeo-Christian activity. This is not about "nostalgia." I don't dwell on the past, or long for a return to it. For me, my many returns to walk in the old neighborhood are sacred. Holy. "Holy" means: "set apart." A tiny, mundane piece of earth becomes the center of the universe, the place where God manifests his glory and presence.
Remembering, as essential covenantal activity, is not really about the past. My memory-walk down 20th Avenue is an eschatological event. To understand the future, to have real hope, one must remember the past, and where one was born and came from. I am a hopeful person today because of a childhood filled with days of expectancy. As I walk these earthly streets I think of the new heaven and new earth that is to come. It will be a safe, loving, playful and adventurous place. My entire family will be there.
I remember Christ, and what God in Jesus has done for me.
I remember the "rescue." I remember what the Lord has done.
"The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy." (Ps. 126:3)
Remembering creates expectation. Expectation has to do with hope. Hope is future-oriented.
When I pray, I remember the deeds of the Lord, done unto me.
My just-published book is Leading the Presence-Driven Church.