Me Too!

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Pastor Jim Melvin

Most of the people who I know like it when men and women work together with mutual respect and mutual recognition. Me too! Most of the people who I know believe that different men and women contribute their own unique skills and abilities to the workplace. Me too! Most of the people who I know believe that no one should be harassed or assaulted due to their gender or because their rank or position makes them vulnerable. Me too! The Bible affirms that God created men and women as partners in life’s journey. Me too!

I’m not trying to co-opt the title of the #MeToo movement for my own ends or minimize its importance. The #MeToo movement was born out of the need to address widespread incidents of sexual harassment that had been too long tolerated in our culture. The #MeToo movement is not a matter of political correctness. The women and men who identify with and participate in the movement have raised our awareness and have accomplished much in bringing justice for abused women, especially in the workplace. Much yet remains to be done. I would add my own “me too” to their mission.

But I also want to add my personal “me too” to all of the men and women I see living working together around me who already embody the biblical partnership to which I have referred. Here are some of the positive things I see going on around me.

1) I see women, many of them young, working and advancing in careers once reserved for men. I see women construction workers, truck drivers, doctors, lawyers, pastors, scientists, pilots, soldiers, CEO’s etc., etc., etc., who are competing and succeeding in the workplace.
2) I see men accepting, supporting, trusting and relying upon women coworkers in all of these jobs.
3) I see men and women paying attention to their language and behaviors out of respect for one another.
4) I see all of us relating together comfortably in social settings with the understanding that not every man/woman interaction needs to be sexualized.

We are witnessing the birth of a new age in the way men and women relate to each other and work with each other; but we’re still in a painful time of transition. The Apostle Paul said 2,000 years ago in another time of societal and religious transformation, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” Do you want to be a part of the new creation? Me too!


By | Blog

Pastor Jim Melvin

If you have seen the Broadway musical Rent, the number 525,600 may ring a mental bell; it’s the number of minutes in a year. The average life expectancy of an American today is 78 years, a couple of years more if you are a female and a couple of years less if you are unfortunate enough to be a male. Male or female, our minutes are numbered, 41,776,800 to be exact if you live that average 78 years (not counting leap years).

41,776,800 is a big number; but it’s not THAT big a number. It’s way less than a billion. We talk about US budget deficits in billions and trillions of dollars. And as the popular astronomer Carl Sagan used to say with great emphasis, “There are BBBillions and BBBillions of stars in the universe.” Our lives are small and of short duration on a cosmic scale. This life is not infinite. The clock is ticking my friends; our clocks are ticking.

Thinking about this may call your attention to the clock ticking in your chest or even send you into a panic attack. That’s not my intention. To the contrary, I’d just like us to consider the opportunities for living represented by that pile of minutes so that we don’t waste them. Each minute is made more precious by its relative scarcity.

There’s an economics term that I hear my friends in business throwing around all the time, opportunity cost. Simply put, opportunity cost is the value you give up doing one thing when you choose to do something else. For example, when I choose to stay in bed for an extra hour in the morning, I’m giving up the opportunity to make money at work or the opportunity to enjoy an hour taking a walk or going fishing with my child. On the job, my boss might not be so happy to know that spending time playing Candy Crush on my phone is robbing me and him/her of the opportunity to get some work done.

It’s a matter of the choices we make on a minute by minute, day by day basis that will ultimately add up to a life well spent or a life wasted. We shouldn’t be obsessed by this kind of accounting of our lives; I’m don’t want to analyze my life on a spreadsheet. But here are some do’s and don’ts to make healthy choices about how to spend your time.

1) Cut back on screen time. Here’s a statistic that I find shocking. According to a Nielson Company audience report, the average American spends 10 hours and 39 minutes per day peering at some kind of screen consuming media. Although we spend more and more times on our personal devices, television is still the main consumer of our time. Consider the opportunity cost. That’s 10 hours and 39 minutes a day we could spend interacting with our children or spouses. That’s 10 hours and 39 minutes a day we could spend at exercise and healthy recreation. That’s 10 hours and 39 minutes a day we could volunteer to our church or service organization. I might even devote a few of those minutes taking a refreshing nap. In short, turn off the tv, put away the phones and tablets, and spend some time in the real world.

2) Spend more time in prayer, devotion, meditation, and other spiritual pursuits. As opposed to almost eleven hours we spend looking at screens, the average American spends about 8 minutes per day in prayer. (That’s actually a little higher than I expected.) Studies show that people who spend significant amounts of time praying and reading the Bible are healthier and live longer. Try devoting just five minutes to prayer when you wake up in the morning and before you go to sleep at night. See how you feel. Also, maybe try to squeeze in 30 minutes reading the Bible or other devotional material.

3) Engage in meaningful conversations. It says in the Genesis creation story that it’s not good for us to be alone. Most of us would agree that there is nothing more important than our relationships. And yet, we seldom take the time to really talk to one another about important things like our feelings, our hopes and our fears. Sitting down to leisurely meals on a regular basis with the significant people in our lives encourages us to talk. And, of course, don’t bring the phone to the table and don’t watch tv. Just talk and chew.

4) Exercise. The Mayo Clinic says that 300 minutes of moderate exercise per week provides significant health benefits. They say that 150 minutes should be a minimum goal. Just going for brisk walks is good enough. If possible, walk in pleasant and peaceful surroundings. You might even try praying as you walk. Get double benefits for each minute spent in your perambulatory devotions. (No, I didn’t make up that word.)

5) Work hard. When you are on the job, or when you have important tasks to take care of, put your heart and your soul into it. When we are working hard and accomplishing something, we don’t have to worry about the opportunity costs. We are making good use of our time. After all, we have to get things done and make a living. No regrets here.

6) Chill. This is my favorite. Just spend some time doing nothing. I remember a Seinfeld episode where Elaine is sitting on an airplane with a friend. He asks, “What are you doing?” “Nothing,” she replies. “You have to be doing something,” he insists. “No, I’m just staring at the back of the seat.” “Boy, you really are doing nothing,” he finally admits. This may be the hardest one for you type-A people, really doing nothing. Once in a while, don’t worry about the opportunity costs. Just do nothing.

Well, that’s kind of a random list; but I hope you get the idea.

On a personal note, I’m almost 71. Assuming that I make it to 82 (that’s how long my dad and brother lived), I’ve got 5,781,600 minutes left. That’s 60 minutes less than when I sat down to write this. Talk about tick-tock. Here’s the way I’ve decided to game the system. I’m going to live each minute with Psalm 118:24 on my lips or at least in my heart: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Then how can I go wrong.

Help the Bahamas

Let’s Not Act Our Age

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Pastor Jim Melvin

Jesus called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-3

 My wife and I recently traveled to Beaufort, North Carolina to help our daughter Emily move into her new home.  She is studying at the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort and had evacuated during Hurricane Dorian.  Fortunately for Emily and most of the people of Beaufort the damage to her property was minor and cleanup was a matter of cutting up and disposing of tree limbs which had been felled during the storm.  Beaufort breathed a corporate sigh of relief.

Walking to town a couple of days after our arrival, we came across four elementary school age kids selling lemonade from a brightly decorated stand.  These young entrepreneurs were not motivated to take advantage of this hot North Carolina day to enrich themselves.  Their sign, decorated with colorful palm trees, bore a simple message: “Help the Bahamas.”  Not content to happily go about their lives unscathed by the storm, they shared the plight of the people of the Bahamas whose lives will not go happily on as usual for a long time – if ever.

These young activists show us why Jesus used children as models for adults behavior.  Children naturally possess one of the qualities which makes us most human, compassion.  They have the ability and the willingness to suffer alongside of others.  Compassion is more than just a feeling; it is also a call to action. In this case a call which they answered. 

I suspect that the reasons to NOT open that lemonade stand never occurred to them.  Reasons like: “It’s a beautiful day and I can go to the beach.”  OR “The few bucks that I’m going to earn won’t make a difference.” OR “People in the Bahamas are different; they can take care of their own problems.”  They just saw people hurting and knew that they needed to help them.   That’s a childish attitude.  Exactly.  We all should have such an attitude.

If you feel a little childish, here are a few suggestions that you can cultivate and demonstrate your humanity:

1)     First of all, don’t forget the victims of Dorian.  As much coverage as disasters like this receive in the media, the news cycle will quickly move on.  That’s just the nature of the news.  Naming the people of the Bahamas in your regular prayer and discussing the ongoing relief efforts with your friends will keep you from moving on too soon.  The problems and suffering generated by this storm are enormous and long lasting.

2)     Find a way to show your support.  Churches and other community organizations are good places to find ways to support the hurricane victims financially or in other material and spiritual ways.  Help your church group organize its own relief effort. Don’t forget to include the real children in your planning.

3)     Advocate for the victims.  Contact your elected representatives to let them know that you want our government to provide meaningful amounts of aid and support in the immediate aftermath of the storm and on a continuing basis.  Tell them that you support granting Temporary Protective Status to Dorian refugees left without homes.

4)     Become like a little child.  Don’t let your own sense of powerlessness or your own fears get in the way of your inborn feelings of compassion.  Because we can’t help everyone doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to help anyone.  If all else fails, open a lemonade stand.  Those kids in Beaufort can stand the competition.

Prayer:  Gracious God, bless the people of the Bahamas with your ever-present support.  Guide our hands and our hearts in your service.  Fill us all with childlike hope and enthusiasm as we dare to suffer alongside all those in need.  Amen.

What Worries You Most

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Pastor Jim Melvin

The list is long of things that we can choose to worry about. Just turn on the TV news and that’s really most of what we hear about. It doesn’t matter if we listen to Fox, CNN, MSNBC, or our local evening news. They all barrage us with things to worry about. For your convenience I’ve compiled a list of worrisome things to keep you awake at night.

2–Climate Change
3–Environmental Disaster
4–Gun violence
7–Economic Recession
8–Drug Resistant Disease
9–Terrorism, Global or Domestic
10–Sexual abuse
11–Gender Inequality
13–War, Nuclear or Conventional
14–Cancer, Heart Disease, Alzheimer’s & Other Diseases
15–Drug Addiction
17–Loss of Religion (or for some, too much religion)
18–Lack of Clean Water
19–Species extinction
20–Invading Aliens from Outer Space

These are all legitimate concerns. (Well, maybe not the last one.) Not only is the list long, many of the threats have multiple dimensions. Take gun violence, for example. You may fear the number of guns in circulation and that you may full victim to a mass shooting; or, you may fear that someone is going to restrict your right to have a gun because of the fear of others. In the case of immigration, you may be concerned about the onslaught of poor people coming to America. Or, you may be concerned that America is turning it’s back on our historic openness to people seeking freedom and opportunity here. Or, if you’re an immigrant, you may fear that ICE will come for you one day.

If any or all these fears are hounding you, I have something that may help. I’m not going to string you along like some of those internet or TV infomercials that bait you to keep watching for twenty minutes only get you to send them $19.99 for a piece of obvious junk (And get an extra one free if you order now!). My suggestion for overcoming every one of these fears is FAITH.
Yada, yada, yada. Don’t tune me out just yet. Jesus had faith that God would save him, you say, and look what it got him, a painful death on a cross. Exactly! Jesus faced the most terrible struggle and abuse imaginable including crucifixion, but in the end experienced victory and eternal life. Knowing throughout his life that his path eventually led to that hill upon which he was crucified, his faith allowed him to live life courageously and meaningfully. His example inspired those who followed him in his own day and inspires millions today who put their faith in him.

The book of Hebrews we read, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…(Hebrews 11:1; 12:1)

Life isn’t easy. Everybody struggles, some of us a lot more than others. Every item on my list above is a real concern (once again, maybe not the aliens). Go back and read through the list again. Now cross off number one. That’s what faith does. Through faith we’ve already won the final victory. We have the assurance that the thing we most hope for yet haven’t seen, eternal life, is a reality. Now we are freed to work on all those other problems.

If only it was as easy as I’m making it out. I know that it isn’t. Faith is hard. Faith is the work of a lifetime. And faith takes a lot of different shapes in different people. I’m a child of the ‘60’s and can still hear groups of people singing, “All that we’re saying—is give peace a chance.” All that I’m saying, is give FAITH a chance.

Pastor Jim

How to Lead

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Pastor Jim Melvin

I’ve heard it said that leaders are born not made. I’ve also heard it said that leaders are made not born. Well, which is it? Let me give you what may seem like an unsatisfying answer—it’s a little bit of both.

Leaders like Queen Victoria and George Washington were born with gifts that inspired entire nations to follow them and who, in turn, led their nations to accomplish great things. Their names live in history.

On the other hand, some unlikely people have had leadership thrust upon them against their will and rose to the occasion. Prince Albert, the future King George of England, was an awkward, stuttering, insecure man forced to lead Great Britain through WW2, which he did ably alongside Winston Churchill. King George learned to overcome his deficiencies as a leader. Another self-doubting stutterer, Moses, answered a divine call to become arguably the most important leader in the Old Testament.

Most of us will neither be born to or called to lead an entire nation through a time of war. Few of us will achieve what the world considers greatness. All of us, however, will be presented with opportunities to lead. Some of these opportunities we will recognize and seize for career or personal advancement. On other occasions we may accept a leadership role reluctantly out of a sense of duty or personal responsibility. Whether inborn or learned, the skills required for leadership are the same.

You can find list after list of leadership qualities with a simple Google search. I conducted a search and found lists of 7, 8, 10, 23, and 101 leadership qualities on the first page. My list contains only one. It’s a counterintuitive quality that Jesus used to prepare his disciples for leadership, servanthood.

Jesus was clear and consistent in this regard. He had a price on his head and knew that his days were numbered. His followers would soon be called upon to lead. He seized on a teachable moment one day walking down the road when he heard them discussing who was the greatest among them. He sat the twelve of them down and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”

On another occasion he employed a visual aid in his teaching. His disciples were gathered to share what would be his last meal with them. From the honored place at the table, he stood up, and to the protest of Peter, picked up a towel and began washing his followers’ feet. He said, “If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”

Nothing says leadership more than be willing to do yourself anything that you ask your followers to do. My proudest and most spontaneous leadership moment came early on in my career as Senior Pastor in a large church. One day the men’s toilet overflowed, flooded the bathroom and flowed under the door into the hallway. Let me put it discretely, it wasn’t just clean water involved. Despite the protest of the custodian who was called to the scene by the office staff, and trying not to gag, I continued wielding the mop until the cleanup was finished. Believe me, I would much rather have been washing feet.

My actions that day were unplanned and fell far short of heroic. I know for a fact, however, that a simple willingness to do a dirty job that fell outside of my job description earned me the loyalty and service of other members of my staff for years to come.

I am not a born leader. I know that I lack many leadership skills written in the Google lists, some that can’t be learned. But putting servanthood first made up for a lot of deficits. I’ve worked a long list of what people consider dirty, menial jobs in my life. They were my best leadership training.

You can be a leader whether or not you carry the title of foreman, manager, superintendent, president, or CEO. You can be a leader if you are called laborer, maid, butler custodian, hired hand or just “hey you.” Whenever you act as and have the mind of a servant, you will always be a leader and you will bear the respect of a leader. And when you lead, others will follow.

How to Celebrate a Life

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Pastor Jim Melvin

“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!”
Psalm 98:4

I was recently asked to lead a “Celebration of Life” service for my wife’s aunt, something that I always feel privileged to do. This was the type of service that her aunt specifically requested. As I was speaking with the family, we started asking exactly what a “Celebration of Life” entails. After a few days of reflection, here is what I have come up with on how to celebrate a life.


The first thing we must do is get together. You can’t really celebrate by email, text, or telephone. Family and friends have to get together in the same place, preferably a place that holds some significance to the person being honored. Sometimes it has to be a place of convenience accessible to the most people – and that’s ok too.

I learned the power of family gatherings through my wife’s family. Coming from a small family, we didn’t get together as a group much. But my wife had 15 aunts and uncles and a bazillion cousins, so family reunions were major events. As the aunts and uncles have passed away over the years (there is only one left in my wife’s family) the reunions mostly occur when someone dies. The first thing we say when we guiltily greet each other is “We only see each other at weddings and funerals.” That statement reinforces the importance of gathering.


It says in the Book of Proverbs, “The memory of the righteous is a blessing.” You can substitute “the ones we love” for “the righteous” if you like. Remembering allows the person we have lost to be present with us. I’ve heard of people who have their celebration of life ceremonies before they die so that they can attend. Not necessary. When we remember, we summon their presence.

One thing that I have found about remembering is that it needs to be honest. It is important to remember the good and the bad, the happy and the sad. Sugarcoating a person’s life or character in a way dishonor’s them. To truly celebrate a life, we should remember them as they were, not as we wish they were. When we remember somebody in the full context, warts and all, it opens the possibility for healing where it is necessary, and a true appreciation of what has been lost. By the way, when you remember me, don’t be TOO honest.


This is a celebration, right? So, party on. The Bible, the Psalms in particular, are full of partying. Psalm 98:4 sings, “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” When the prodigal son returned the father said, “ʽBring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So, they began to celebrate.” And when Jesus attended the wedding at Cana in Galilee, they ran out of wine and so they asked Jesus to come up with180 gallons more. Tell me that wasn’t a real party.

Seriously, the party, the eating and drinking together (it doesn’t have to be alcohol) are an essential part of healing. The beginning of the banquet signals that it is time for life to move on and for happiness to enter into life again. In my midwestern Lutheran experience nothing says healing more than a hot dish and bars.


My final step for celebrating the life of someone we love is to throw ourselves back into life again. We honor their life by going out and leading the kind of life that they would be proud of. We are the ones who now have the opportunity to create a living legacy for the one who has gone before us. That applies not only to our parents and older relatives, but also to our friends for whom the opportunity to make a direct difference in the world has been closed.


Don’t Worry — Be Happy

By | Blog

Pastor Jim Melvin

Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” Matthew 6:25-27

I had a hard time falling asleep the other night. My Fitbit, which tracks my sleep, confirmed that the quality and duration of my sleep was far less than it should have been. I drug my butt around the whole next day and didn’t accomplish much.

What was keeping me awake? My truck’s brakes had been feeling squishy and so I took it in to the dealer before I rear-ended somebody. I didn’t get much comfort from the slogan of the brake technician in the second-rate garage in a recent AT&T commercial, “If the brakes don’t stop it, something will.” I was expecting a call from the mechanic in the morning. In the meantime, I tossed and turned worrying about how much the repair would cost me.

As it turned out, it was pretty much a worst-case scenario. I needed a new master cylinder. Ouch! $688.53 later I’m confident that my brakes will stop me before I hit the driver in front of me. (Please don’t tell me if you think I got ripped off.) Here’s my point. That master cylinder replacement would have cost me $688.53 whether or not I tossed and turned all night. As Bobby McFerrin sang, “In every life we have some trouble, but when you worry you make it double. Don’t worry. Be happy.” $688.53 is a lot of money to have to shell out; but it wasn’t the end of the world.

Bobby McFerrin got a lot of grief for his song. It’s naïve and simplistic some people said. And in some ways, it is. There are times in life when worry is inevitable and warranted. Some really bad things happen. Much of the time, however, our worry is unnecessary. We are always better off if we can at least manage our worry, because unrestrained worry robs us of the ability to deal fully with the problems we face.

I take the words of “Don’t Worry Be Happy” seriously because Jesus said the same thing. Jesus fortified this teaching with the promise that God will care for us and provides for us no matter how bad things get. Even when we face death, he offers us eternal life. Faith provided him with that assurance, an assurance that he shared with us. Faith is a great cure for fretful insomnia in the face of the greatest challenges of life.

When our faith is shaky, there is one little technique for short-circuiting worry that helps sometimes (even though I failed to use it during my recent brake incident). In my experience, worry, particularly in the middle of the night, takes the form of a recording playing over and over in my head. When you hear that recording start to repeat, press your mental PAUSE button. If it starts up again, hit the PAUSE again. You can choose to shut it down. The more you practice; the more effective you will get. The more effect you get, the less sleep you will lose.

That’s the first step; choose not to worry. Then, be happy. How do you do that? You may find your own path to happy, but the next time I can’t sleep for worry, I think I’ll hum Bobby McFerrin’s song. “Doo doo doo doo doo doo. Don’t worry. Be happy.” With that little ditty in my head I will either go to sleep or go nuts. Don’t worry. Be happy. I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, I pray that your worries are little ones and that God sees you through the big ones.

Remember Me

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Pastor Jim Melvin

“Remember me…” Willie Nelson pleads in his sad Texas brogue.

“Remember me when the candle lights are gleamin’.
Remember me at the close of a long, long day.
An’ it would be so sweet when all alone, I’m dreamin’,
Just to know you still remember me.”

“Remember me…” Jesus urged his disciples as he shared his last meal with them.

“Jesus took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks,
he broke it and gave it to them, saying,
‘This is my body, which is given for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.’” Luke 22:17-19

Something within both Willie and Jesus yearns to be remembered. Something within all of us cries out to not be forgotten after we are gone. During this time when our nation stops to remember through our Memorial Day celebrations, it is a good time to reflect on the need to remember and to be remembered.

In his memorial address at the battlefield of Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln said ironically, “The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” I say ironically because in his humility Abe underestimated the staying power of his brief address; the world has noted and long remembered what he said that day. But his intention was right; we can never forget what those Americans who died in that horrific battle died for – the soul of America. We have something worth remembering.

The act of remembering on Memorial Day is to honor those who died not only at Gettysburg but in all the tragic conflicts in which the price of freedom was poured out in the currency of blood. We consecrate their memories as though the words of our prayers could travel back through time to express our gratitude to each in the moment of their death.

We also remember their sacrifice so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past – although it seems we tend to do just that. We “Remember the Maine!” We “Remember the Alamo!” We will “Never Forget 911!” And we dare “Never Forget” the Holocaust of Nazi Germany. As Holocaust survivor Simon Wiesenthal said,

“For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”

In remembering, the lives of the living and the dead are comingled. There is no past and future in eternity, just a Holy present moment in which we share our humanity and repent of our inhumanity.

In all our historical remembrances, our motivation to remember may initially be out of a sense of holding a grudge. As time passes, however, it is to be hoped that the need for vengeance is surpassed by a longing for understanding and healing. For as dead pile up like cordwood on the battlefields of time, we learn the futility of war and the tragedy of senseless death.

In remembering, we are not only empowered to reject the evil of the past; we are blessed with the ability to keep the good alive. The Book of Proverbs says, “The memory of the righteous is a blessing.” And so Memorial Day is also an appropriate time for us to remember all our lost saints, those whom we have loved and gone before us. Laying flowers on grave or taking a moment to share a favorite story of one who has died holds surprising power in keeping them alive to us.

Which brings me back to my initial statement that something in all of us cries out to be remembered. For most of us, the world will little note nor long remember what we say OR do. Few of us will leave behind a legacy to impress the ages. But we can and will be remembered. Maybe this is a good time to hum Willie’s tune, a little wistfully, in the form of a prayer to the world and to those we love –

“Remember me when the candle lights are gleamin’.
Remember me at the close of a long, long day.
An’ it would be so sweet when all alone, I’m dreamin’,
Just to know you still remember me.”