With the celebration of our 47th Wedding Anniversary this past Monday and Memorial Day coming up this coming Monday I’ve been thinking about The Gift of Memory. Most of the time we take our memory for granted, but when we are aware of loved ones and friends who are losing their memory we realize how important it is.

Often something reminds me of my past and as I revisit memories of people, places, and periods of time gone by I become somewhat somber. I don’t think it’s because they are unpleasant memories, but because those memories are reminders of things that were so meaningful and enjoyable.

I cannot remember when it was said or who said it, but I recall hearing a speaker (I think it was a preacher) say, “We tend to remember what we should forget and forget what we should remember.” I don’t know how true it is, but there are some things we’d like to forget if we could, but hopefully many more that we do remember. Alan Jackson’s song Precious Memories reminds us that all of us have some memories that we love to revisit.

The saying “take a walk down memory lane” makes sense to me. Occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, holidays, and deaths invite us to take that walk. A stroll down memory lane usually means to remember pleasant things, rather than bad memories.

When it comes to looking back, most of the time I am a real softie. And like many people, in addition to the occasions mentioned above, hearing old songs takes me back to earlier times in my life.

Memory and memories are to most of us gifts. We can’t return to the past and shouldn’t live in the past, but we can remember the past. We can enjoy our memories and sometimes even learn from them.

As we come to Memorial Day this Monday let’s remember that memory is a gift. Let’s also be reminded that Memorial Day began as a day to honor men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.

Memorial Day, however, is not the only day on which we remember. While we do remember both the good and the bad in our past, perhaps this is a good day to focus on the good in our past and express gratitude to God and others for our precious memories.

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Most of us are somewhat familiar with the poet Tennyson’s observation “it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Apparently not everyone agrees with Tennyson’s observation because with the passing of time his observation has been turned into a question, “Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?”

My sense is that the answer to the question would depend upon people’s experiences with love. I don’t know if Tennyson was referring only to people, but we all know that even though we do love people, our love is not limited to people. For example, in my life I have loved many pets that eventually died. I grieved the loss of each one, but never regretted loving any of them.

In terms of my work as a pastor, I have served and left four churches. My first experience was as a summer intern youth minister. As I left that church to return to college I was stunned how hard it was for me to leave.

Following my summer internship I got a part time youth minister position close to the college I was attending. I stayed there for five years, but eventually accepted the opportunity to serve a small church near the East coast. As we pulled out of the church parking lot in our U-Haul I could not hold back the tears.

The same thing happened 10 years later as we went to the airport to head to California where I had the opportunity to plant a church. Some 33 years later I was embarrassed (although I should not have been) to cry as I began my drive to Texas after I said good-by to three of my best friends with whom I played golf.

All of us have lost loved ones (family and friends) and grieved their passing. I could go on with more examples but I think the point is clear. All of us have loved and lost in a variety of ways and situations.

Let’s return to Tennyson’s observation as well as try to answer the question people have asked in light of his statement. While some may reject it, I’m confident the majority would agree with Tennyson’s observation, “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” But how do we answer the question, “Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?”

In a 2012 article Dr. Jennifer L. Kunst suggests “We ask, wouldn’t it be better to protect ourselves from the pain of loss by never loving—really loving—at all?” Some may ask that question, but I don’t think many do. Dr. Kunst reminds us that “painful feelings of loss are an inevitable part of love. To be true to my best self, I must embrace the reality that the more I love, the more painful the loss.”

Perhaps the questions we might ask ourselves are, “Is it worth it? Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?” My answer is a resounding yes. I agree with Dr. Kunst, “How sad it would be to live our lives in a mode of self-protection that costs us some of the most precious experiences of life: to love and to be loved.”

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My answer to the question asked in the title of this post is BOTH! I realize some enjoy reading more than others do, but most people do some reading.

Earlier this week I was reminded that I need to be reading both new and old books. We’re calling one of the Bible studies I am currently leading “An Overview of the Book of Revelation.” To prepare for this study I ordered a couple of newer books about Revelation that I have found useful.

In preparing for this week’s discussion I remembered a set of commentaries on the New Testament I have that I had not yet consulted in our overview. The set was written by William Barclay and is entitled THE DAILY STUDY BIBLE SERIES.

In just the introduction to his commentary on Revelation I found both the first and last paragraphs powerful and worthy of sharing with those in my overview. I want to share them with you as well.

On page one Barclay writes, “When a student of the New Testament embarks upon the study of the Revelation he [sic] feels himself projected into a new and a different world. Here is something quite unlike the rest of the New Testament. Not only is Revelation different; it is also notoriously difficult for a modern mind to understand. The result is that the Revelation has sometimes been abandoned as quite unintelligible, and it has sometimes become the playground of religious eccentrics, who use it to map out celestial timetables of what is to come, or who find in it evidence for their own eccentricities.”

Twenty-four pages later he concludes his introduction, “No one can shut his [sic] eyes to the difficulty of the Revelation. It is the most difficult book in the Bible; but it is infinitely worth studying for it contains the blazing faith of the Christian Church in the days when life was agony, when men expected the end of the heavens and the earth as they knew them, and when they still believed that beyond the terror there was glory, and that above the raging of men was the power of Almighty God” (p. 24).

Barclay wrote the FOREWARD to THE DAILY STUDY BIBLE SERIES at the end of 1958 and it was first published in Scotland in 1959. My set of the series was given to me almost 50 years ago.

I’m still reading new books on Revelation (my newest was published in 2019) and doing my best to better understand this last book of the Bible. Even for those who are not particularly interested in Revelation, I recommend the first and last paragraphs of Barclay’s introduction. After some 70 years I think what he wrote is still worth reading.


Those of us who have read (or tried to read) the book of Revelation would agree that we don’t completely understand it. The last book of the Bible is unique to the New Testament and presents a real challenge to readers.

When it comes to Revelation many Christians seem to take one of two extremes: they either obsess with it trying to use it to predict what is going to happen or totally ignore it.

As I have prepared to lead a Bible study overview of the book of Revelation I have come to better understand why some Christians avoid the book. Here are some selected quotes from a few New Testament scholars and authors that probably contribute to avoiding it:

For most church members, the book of Revelation is a closed book. They avoid it, thinking it too mysterious for them to understand” (BREAKING THE CODE: UNDERSTANDING THE BOOK OF REVELATION by Bruce Metzger, p. 9).

“The average Christian fights shy of the book of Revelation. It seems to him well-nigh incomprehensible. He is perhaps skeptical of some fanciful interpretations he has heard, and he cannot easily accustom himself to the bizarre imagery” (WHAT CHRIST THINKS OF THE CHURCH by John R.W. Stott, p. 11).

 “. . . a great deal of what has been written about it, especially at the popular level, tends to obscure its meaning rather than to help the reader understand it” (REVELATION by Gordon Fee, p. ix).

“When turning to the book of Revelation from the rest of the New Testament, one feels as if he or she were entering a foreign country” (HOW TO READ THE BIBLE FOR ALL ITS WORTH by Fee and Stuart, p. 231).

“People are endlessly curious about the biblical book of Revelation. Yet when they actually sit down to read Revelation they often feel it intimidating and difficult” (THE RAPTURE EXPOSED by Barbara Rossing, p. 81).

Author Chuck Colclasure makes a gentle and important observation that softens these discouraging quotes, “Rather than being intended to frighten and horrify us with its startling imagery, the true purpose of the Book of Revelation is to provide hope, comfort, and encouragement to those who continue to trust in God, even during the most difficult of times—perhaps especially during the most difficult times” (THE OVERCOMERS: Discovering Hope in the Book of Revelation, Preface to the Second Edition).

I hope we all can agree that the book of Revelation is not an easy read. Yet as followers of Jesus and those who want to understand Revelation, let’s read it without obsessing over it. And as we do I hope we all will keep in mind this crucial advice from Fee and Stuart (HOW TO READ THE BIBLE FOR ALL ITS WORTH, p.231), “It seems necessary to say at the outset that no one should approach the Revelation without a proper degree of humility!”

For those who are interested in reading a solid and thoughtful basic book about Revelation I recommend BREAKING THE CODE: UNDERSTANDING THE BOOK OF REVELATION by Bruce Metzger.

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