I have been on vacation the past 11 days. Last night I returned from a visit to the Tampa, Florida area. The older I get the less heat bothers me and the more cold bothers me. So, I didn’t mind a week of temperatures of 90 and above. When I travel I like to explore places and things I haven’t seen before, as well as revisiting places I especially liked.
My first Sunday night I was trying to decide where to eat. I was hit by a particular desire for something from the past; not my past in the Tampa area, but much further back to my time in college. I decided to visit the Skyline Chili restaurant in Clearwater. It is Cincinnati chili, which is a distinct variety compared to the chili most people are used to. It and competing Cincinnati chili restaurants like Gold Star are plentiful around the CIncinnati area. There are a number around Columbus. The closest ones I am aware of in the Cleveland area are in Mansfield and Stow, neither of which is very close. The attached picture is what I had for dinner: 2 cheese coneys (no onion), a side of freshly shredded mild cheddar cheese, and my bowl of crackers. As a side dish, I pinch a small lump of the cheese between 2 of the crackers to make a mini sandwich. The picture attached to this message is an actual picture of my dinner. I shared this picture as well as a few pictures of the outside and inside of the building on an alumni Facebook group page, letting people know where to stop for Skyline in Florida.
Later I signed onto Facebook again, and had many responses to my post. One of them was a message from a former classmate who lives in the general area I was visiting. I had heard he was in Florida, but didn’t know he had been ministering at a church in the city of Seminole for the past 20 years. He told me he was nearby, and suggested that we meet there to visit. The next night I met him, his wife, and another former classmate that I didn’t know was in the area (and wasn’t expecting) for dinner. We had a great time visiting for a couple hours. I attended his church the next Sunday.
These episodes caused me to reflect about memories in general. Some memories are precious. Sometimes we have negative or bittersweet ones. As Christians we remember our past lives before accepting Christ. Often people remember past difficulties or problems with sin. We remember those who have died before us– loved ones who are truly missed. Thankfully Christ has brought us a bright future of salvation and eternity with Him. I hope we remember people and events that can help strengthen our present, and motivate us to appreciate God’s presence in our lives.
In Philippians 1, Paul writes:
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:3-8).
It is natural as believers to look to the future. Paul reminds us that we aren’t yet finished with the present. Part of our present involves relationships with others that we have built throughout our lives. Paul doesn’t consider the Philippians coworkers, but partners. He knows that God works through all of them for the same purpose of spreading the Gospel with their lives. That good work will continue until Christ returns.
I am thankful that I had a happy memory of Skyline Chili, and took advantage of it. I was satisfied by the food, but through sharing my experience I received much more. I received the reassurance from reconnecting with a few people that God still works through all of us. It was great to be reminded of, and discuss how memories we shared helped bring us to where we are today. We are looking forward to trying to stay connected more regularly, and hope to be able to visit again.
I pray that each of us, like Paul, remembers those with whom we have shared life and the work of the Gospel. We can remember the past with joy, and allow our present to be strengthened at the same time.
Take heart and be encouraged!