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I saw an interesting “post” on the internet a while back: “The 38 Most Haunting, Abandoned Places On Earth”.  I decided to scroll through these beautiful (and yes, haunting) photos of everything from abandoned asylums (creepy), to old subway stations, churches (one with the chairs still standing in rows and an infant’s coffin still in its place next to the altar).  All in all, each photo begged for a story.  Then I came to Photo number 22…an old ocean liner, wrecked, beached and rusted…but still somehow beautiful with the waves crashing near it.

Then I read the caption: “Wreck of the SS AMERICA – Fuerteventura, Canary Islands”.  The SS AMERICA was an American ocean-liner that, in the 50’s, sailed from New York to Europe and back, as part of the old “United States Lines”.

A few months after I was born (1958) my father returned to Frankfurt, Germany, where he was a part of the Army Band.  My mother and I stayed in Richland, Washington until the end of July 1959 when we boarded a train from Washington State to New York City…Pier 86 on West 46th Street, to be exact.  And there we boarded the SS AMERICA and sailed to Bremerhaven.  We sailed Tourist Class, sharing a stateroom with another mother and her young daughter.  My Mom kept a bit of the memorabilia and so I’ve always known about this ship, and our time aboard.  We sailed (as opposed to flying) because of my Mom’s fear of flying (she only flew once, that I know of, and that was our return trip to the States…because there was no room on the liner when we were to depart…they drugged her up).

It was on board this ship that I learned to walk…with the aid of the Cabin Steward and some of the crew.  This ship holds a special place in my life and my heart…now a shipwreck at the Canary Islands, home to fish and a beautiful photographer’s model of “haunted abandonment”.

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?…”

What is the good of “remembering”, when the things of the past even those things that mean something to each of us, are nothing but skeletons or memories?  There IS some good to looking back, and like everything, there is some bad as well.  I’m a bit sad to see the hull of what was once a “majestic lady on the seas”, and one that had a place in MY history, abandoned and decaying.

But on the other hand, God speaks of “memories” in terms of strengthening the present day.  And in those terms I can look on this photo and remember that Mom had a great time aboard, and I learned how to walk (undoubtedly fostering my love of cruising in the Caribbean).  I can thank God that we traveled alone across the country on train and then across the Atlantic without trouble, and in fact MADE new friends along the way.  I can thank God that the SS AMERICA gave 54 years of splendid service to families like mine.  There should be nothing bitter about those kinds of memories…and God understands that some things are best forgotten…and that is why He promises, when we ask, to forget the times we hurt Him, abandoned Him, made stupid, stupid mistakes and turned our backs on Him and our birthrights.

God REMEMBERS His promises/covenants even when we forget, and He asks us to remember the times when He rescued, saved, healed, fought…for us. (EX 13:3…example)  When we remember THOSE times, we can feel the power of faith surging back through our needy limbs.  God will never forget us or our His love for us (IS 49:14-16).

How then should WE live?  The answer is obvious and simple.  (PHIL 4:8) Don’t expect to be happy if you constantly think of the “sad” and the ”bad”…don’t expect to be at peace if you dwell on discontent.  “Think on…” and remember the things that give you strength TODAY.  Life moves on, the universe is expanding daily, people change…God, in His own way, has “moved forward” so that He can meet us where those things that are new to us exist.  This is a new year, and yet ANOTHER CHANCE to turn and walk in a different direction…let the good things of the past empower you to walk forward.

The flip side, and the difficult side, is to do with ourselves what God does by forgiving our imperfections and sin (PS 103:12)God forgives and forgets…sometimes we don’t.  We don’t forgive others and more often, we don’t forgive ourselves.  Remembering all of the wrong things one did, all of the mistakes one made makes one depressed, cynical and angry…often filled and motivated by regret.  This is where the new year raises her head again…turn around, walk forward…you are not who you were, and YOU and GOD define how your past dictates your future…God won’t force the issue.  Don’t expect your sins and indiscretions to be forgiven if you don’t ask Him, and don’t expect God to take care of any “repair work” that you need to make in your relationships with others, just because HE’s forgiven you.  But you CAN move forward.

No one sails on the SS AMERICA now…but it is obvious to me that many people go nowhere because they’ve “stayed aboard the shipwreck”…thinking their past defines their future.

Whatever it is in 2021 that you need to do…do it.  God has promised His power, through the “Breath of God” to strengthen you in any Godly purpose…and His people are standing beside you almost every week, at least.  And in case you need a little reminder of exactly what CAN be done…remember the good things, the true things, the beautiful things that God has already done.

Happy New Year.