Memorial Day

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“The willingness of America’s veterans to sacrifice for our country has earned them our lasting gratitude.” (Jeff Miller)

 

I hIMG_2573ave two sons in the military. That statement always gives me pause and sometimes stops my heart. Our eldest son is now a chaplain in the Navy re-enlisting after having served eight years right out of high school, opting to go into the Navy’s nuclear power program instead of college. He left the Navy for marriage and family considerations and, after working and raising a family for about ten years, God called him into the ministry to serve specifically in the Navy.
Our second son chose to enlist after 9/11 and in doing so found his calling in life. His IMG_2398deployment to Iraq was one of the most difficult years I have ever had to face. Even now, the tears well up when I think of that time. The helplessness and fear
of losing my child had become almost debilitating. Every prayer was a plea to bring him home safe. I took every opportunity to ask for prayer on his behalf from my church, family and friends; in fact I had friends around the world sending up prayers on his behalf. Thank you, Lord for answered prayer!

Our oldest son, David, has made a few short trips to Afghanistan during special holy days to celebrate them with the troops. Each time one of my sons goes into harm’s way my heart melts into the comfort of my Lord for if it did not, I coud not function.

I so admire the courage and strength of my daughters-in-law. Women who not only hold themselves together but take care of their kids and keep the home functioning. I really do not know how they manage it. But manage they do. David’s wife, Nora, is my idol. She and David have four sons and yet she is still sane! (Having only 3 sons I know what she contends with on a daily basis). The thing is, the boys not only love
their mom they respect her as well — which is something that you don’t see much of these days. Dulcie, Kevin’s wife, has come into our lives in just the past couple of years. She, too, is a woman of strength who has brought back joy into my son’s life and gives the support my son needs to serve well.

On this Monday we will observe Memorial Day. A variety of public and private rituals and ceremonies will take place to keep alive a memory. We set aside a day to prevent past experiences, people and moments in history from being forgotten. Through the observance of this holiday, we are called to honor and remember those who have given their lives in order that this nation remains free. Above all else we should remember the ultimate sacrifice made by others that keeps us free and causes freedom’s light to burn not only within our hearts but in our national conscience as well. In these days of terrorism and constant war, Memorial Day has become very personal to most Americans for it seems that we all know someone in the service and sadly know a family who suffered the loss of a loved one in service to this country.

“Memory is a tricky thing. There are some things, however, that we should never forget. One of these is the sacrifice that others have made in our behalf.

It was a spring morning in 1866, just after the Civil War had devastated the South. A group of Southerners did something quite extraordinary. They marched down the streets of what was left of their town to a cemetery. There they decorated the graves of the soldiers. All the soldiers, Union as well as Confederate.

The mothers and daughters and widows had buried their dead. Now
they buried their hatred. The time for healing had come. It was the first Memorial Day.

Have you ever wondered why Memorial Day is marked in May? Its date doesn’t recall some historic battle. Or the start of some war. Or the signing of an armistice. Why, then, May?

For a very practical reason. Because it is a time when flowers bloom. Flowers with which to decorate graves.” (King Duncan, Collected Sermons)

 

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I leave you with a few quotes that I found inspiring.

 

“There is nothing wrong with America that the faith, love of freedom, intelligence, and energy of her citizens can not cure.” — Dwight David Eisenhower

“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission.” — John F. Kennedy

“Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.” — Billy Graham

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” — John F. Kennedy

Change and War Horses

During “change” time in the Army I find that my mind takes me on a journey back over my appointments. Inevitably some appointments will stand out; some because of blessings experienced and the joy of the appointment; some because of sorrow at disappointments and failures. When I am reminded of my disappointments and failures I often ‘rehearse’ the what if’s and if onlys. When I am dwelling long in this land of memory I am especially grateful for God’s promise, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) This promise helps to mitigate the longing to go back and “fix” mistakes or “redo” the past. We all know that hindsight is 20/20 but I am discovering that, with spiritual maturity, hindsight can also be painful and uncomfortable.

In retirement there are times when I feel like an old war horse that has been put out to pasture but still responds to the familiar call to arms. Move time is just such a familiar ‘call to arms’ to me…this old war horse…as I watch folks on Facebook make their preparations. I’m finding that my mind drifts into the past usually landing someplace that I would like to go back to in order to clean up my mistakes and missed opportunities. The reality is that we only have one chance to respond in any given situation. (Yes, sometimes we have opportunity to correct that response but too often what we’ve missed we’ve missed.) So move time comes and in the new appointment we look back and begin to see the things we missed or hear the things that we’ve said or did and wished with everything in us that we could go back and make corrections. While that ain’t gonna happen I have learned to pray, “Lord, bring out the good for those who had been under my care as well as for me.”

God is so good. While we cannot go back for do overs we know that in every situation the Lord is always right there with us in every situation ready, willing, and waiting to bring about resolutions that are for our good. “For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life—pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures—and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair. Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.” (Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming)

One thing I always appreciated about changes of appointment is that it felt like I was given a clean page and a new chance to better serve my Lord and better fulfill my calling. So to all who are still ‘in the war’ be reminded of how much you are loved by the Almighty, the one who created you and gave purpose and meaning to your life.

All my work is for the Master,                                                                                                                    He is all my heart’s desire;                                                                                                                               O that he may count me faithful                                                                                                                  In the day that tries by fire!   (Albert Orsborn)

One final reminder from Nouwen: “I know that I have to move from speaking about Jesus to letting him speak within me, from thinking about Jesus to letting him think within me, from acting for and with Jesus to letting him act through me. I know the only way for me to see the world is to see it through his eyes.”

Rule of Life

Have you ever taken the time to develop a ‘Rule of Life’? A rule of life can be simply defined as a collection of rules or guidelines for living that cover all aspects of life; the purpose is to help us keep our lives in balance. The idea for a Rule of Life began in the monastic tradition by St. Benedict.

A few years ago I was challenged to develop my own rule of life as part of a required course in pursuit of my degree. Part of the process was to retreat; find blocks of time and in the Spirit’s presence pay attention to my heart’s desires. Debra Farrington in her book, Living Faith Day by Day: How the Sacred Rules of Monastic Traditions Can Help You Live Spiritually in the Modern World, writes: “People frequently discover the real work that God intends for them by paying attention to the kinds of tasks or activities that seem to bring them into close contact with what is holy.” I confess that, since I was in my fifties, I thought this would be a ‘slam dunk’ as I had years of living and work to inform me. Boy, was I wrong. As I gave myself over to this task I discovered depths of relationship with God that I had never experienced before. Taking an honest look at oneself is seldom easy but to lay yourself bare before the Lord is life changing. (we all know this but…)

I want to share with you my Rule of Life and some background on its development. I hesitate to do this because first of all it is a very personal area of my life and second I don’t want the focus to be about me as if I were some kind of super saint. If I did not feel so strongly the Lord’s leading here I would not do it. As you read on please pay close attention to what the Lord is saying to you about your own spiritual journey as you read a bit of mine.

(I am only giving you an outline of my rule of life. In going through this process the Lord helped me put much ‘meat on the bone.’ The development of this/the process is an awesome journey.)

The all-consuming desire of my life is in knowing and loving God. The natural outcome of this desire is the aim to:

  • Maintain relationships
  • Develop my gifts and talents
  • Maintain my calling
  • Nurture a healthy lifestyle

The Scriptural foundation for my life is found in 1 Timothy 1:12, 14, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service….The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”

Knowing and Loving God

My identity is informed and shaped by my knowledge and understanding of God. I want to build and nurture my relationship with Him through worship, prayer, Scripture, and communion.

My spiritual identity is informed by these Scriptures:

Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.      The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Colossians 3:22b-23, “…with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”

2 Timothy 1:12, “…I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. “

 Maintaining Relationships

God created us to live in community. I want to demonstrate my love for God by honoring the relationships in which He has placed me. I desire to strengthen and deepen my relationship with my husband, my children and grandchildren, close friends and my fellow officers. I want to strive to build understanding and trusting relationships; I want to be an encourager that will help to bring out the best good in each person.

My primary reason to love and maintain relationships:

1 John 4:7, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

1 John 4:10-12, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

1 John 4:16-17, “…God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.”

Developing and using my gift and talents

God has graciously gifted me through the Holy Spirit. I want to be effective and faithful in using these gifts to serve Him. I want Him to have free channel through which He can reach others, both the saved and the unsaved. I desire to be a relevant and vital witness of God’s amazing love and grace. I also desire to learn how to use my giftedness to serve and edify my part of the body of Christ, the community in which I live and if possible globally.

My scriptural reminder that perfection only comes at glorification:

Philippians 3:12-16, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”

Maintaining my calling

In working out my calling I will strive to pursue excellence in being . . .

…a faithful Officer

…an effective messenger of the Gospel,

…a servant leader

…an effective vessel that is empowered by the Holy Spirit.

…a teacher of the Word that models its transforming power

…an effective discipler

…a servant of the poor and needy by providing comfort and assistance in the Name of Christ

…a good and faithful steward of God’s monetary blessings

 

As a leader called out by God I have been entrusted to communicate His message.

1 Corinthians 2:6-10, “We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.   No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’ but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.”

Colossians 1:24-26, “Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh   what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness- the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.”

If I am to be an effective servant for God I must be healthy and whole.

1 Peter 1:13-16, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Let me leave you with a part of The Rule of Taize (The Community of Taize is composed of more than one hundred brothers, from Catholic and Protestant traditions, who originate from about thirty countries across the world and founded in 1940 by Brother Roger Schütz, a Reformed Protestant.): “There are moments when the silence of God culminates in his creatures. In the solitude of a retreat, we are renewed by intimate meeting with Christ. These essential moments must therefore be set aside.”

 

A Prayer

Lord, grant me your peace,

for I have made peace

with what does not give peace,

and I am afraid.

Drive me deep, now,

to face myself so I may see

that what I truly need to fear is

my capacity to deceive

and willingness to be deceived,

my loving of things

and using of people,

my struggle for power

and shrinking of soul,

my addition to comfort

and sedation of conscience,

my readiness to criticize

and reluctance to create,

my clamor for privilege

and silence at injustice,

my seeking for security

and forsaking the kingdom.

 

Lord, grant me your peace.

Instill in me such fear of you

as will begin to make me wise,

and such quiet courage

as will enable me to begin

to make hope visible,

forgiving delightful,

loving contagious,

faith liberating,

peace-making joyful

and myself open

and present

to other people

and your kingdom.

Amen.

(Ted Loder: Guerrillas of Grace; Prayers for the Battle)

Influence

“I wish you were my mommy.”  My heart simultaneously melted and cried on hearing these words. You see this little ten year old girl lived in a home where she and her sibs were, well, nuisances.  In this instance my Sunbeam leader, a couple of volunteers and myself had taken our Sunbeam troop on a field trip.  My daughter was one of the girls.  On the way home we stopped at Dairy Queen for a treat.  While we were all sitting around the parlor eating our cones, my daughter came over, sat in my lap whispered in my ear, “I love you……can I have a dime?” After responding to her she ran back over where some of the girls were sitting. I soon felt a gentle tap on my arm and one of the other girls asked if she could sit on my lap.  I helped her up and she sat quietly eating her cone.  She leaned back against me and took my hand from the table to wrap around her.  It was when she finished her cone that she turned around hugged my neck hard and whispered in my ear, “I wish you were my mommy.” I whispered back, “me too,”  hugged her tight and then she quietly slipped off my lap and rejoined the other girls. 

Leading up to Mother’s Day, this incident kept coming to mind, along with images of other kids that I have had the privilege of loving.  I could write a book about them.  I remember on of my teen girls who ran away from home, was caught and placed in juvenile detention because she would not go back home. So while family counseling and court appearances were taking place, she lived with us. 

All of the faces and memories of my kids — particularly those who struggled living with uncertain, desperate, and depraved circumstances — visited my heart this year prior to Mother’s Day.  I don’t know why; it just happened. This got me to pondering and wondering where some are today and how they are doing.  I know where some are and sadly a few did not live long into adulthood.  But others have done well and made a good life for themselves.

Influence:  the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself. (Google’s definition) This is a basic understanding that all good Corps Officers have as they love, shepherd, and minister to the  young people that God has placed in their care. Long lasting, effective influence can only be inculcated by a heart filled with the Spirit and love of God. Loving and working with kids is no easy task. It is a ministry filled with joy and delight, while at the same time often fraught with emotional traps and times of despair.  

To those of you who are not parents and to those who are, I remind you that the kids in your sphere of “influence” are watching and adopting what they see in you. Pray God that it is the Christ in you.

Hear a promise from the Lord for all those willing to give themselves completely to the task of ministry to which you have been called: “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3)

Learning Curve

Don’tcha just love when you are learning a new thing when you think you’ve got it and you discover that you don’t?

Well, as part of this site, I wanted to develop a Resource page–which I did–but when I added a new resource it showed up on the blog page…..sigh.

But perhaps it is a good mistake. I can at least take this opportunity to let you know about the Resource Page in case you did not notice it on the menu bar above.

This page is still a work in progress and I would appreciate any feedback you might have as to what would be a helpful aid to your ministry.

Thanks y’all for your patience and your support.

Here’s a bit of a blessing from the International Staff Songsters. (If it works….)

Mountains and Valleys

I thought I would try to give you an illustrated message.  My husband and I have done illustrated messages in various ways and styles.  The one I provide here is an example of a presentation method.

I am grateful to my husband for providing the message outline.  It is available in the notes pages of the presentation.  Please feel free to edit the presentation as you will.  In particular you will want to flesh out this outline and make it your own.

Mountains and Valleys

Mom

Arvilla & Mom

I have struggled these past few days to know what I would like to say about my mom.  Mom was born into poverty in 1919; she was one of 8 children. While Mom was not a ‘touchy-feely’ person I don’t think I ever doubted that she loved me; even during those times when she lost patience with me and let me have a good spanking!

My father was an alcoholic and often tried to become sober and stay sober.  He moved his family to a new state hoping to begin a new life away from the influence of friends and family that lacked an understanding of his problem.  Needless to say, it didn’t work and in the end alcohol killed him at the young age of 40. He left behind a wife with two children still at home who had no means of support. (I do not say that in any way to condemn my dad, it is just a fact.) I was nine and my sister was fifteen. Instead of falling apart and going to find the welfare office, Mom determined to make it on her own. To ask for charity would have meant defeat for Mom and she would have none of that. She would only accept veterans survivor benefits because Daddy had earned them. She once told me that to receive these benefits made her feel like Daddy was helping her.

With only a tenth grade education, this marvelous woman found a job–cooking–and set about providing a stable home for her daughters and herself. She used what little insurance money daddy left her to buy a very modest house using the one modern convenience  that she had, a spin-dry washing machine, as a down payment.  I never heard her complain when doing laundry in her old ringer-washer even when the thing seemed to eat her arm at times; a few choice words would spew forth but not complaints at doing laundry in such a difficult fashion. My mother provided for us what my father could not, a stable home with a steady income to provide for the necessities of life.

There is an old tradition that gives an individual a verse in Proverbs that is descriptive of the one born on a particular day. For men it is chapter 21 and women’s verses can be found in chapter 31.  My mother’s verse says, “Strength and honor are her clothing; She shall rejoice in time to come.”  (31:25)  I have come to appreciate her strength and understand it more as an adult as I view my mother through adult eyes with children of my own.  Mom has left a legacy that I see in my daughter and in her daughter:  strength of character that does not give up in a time of adversity and difficult circumstances but rather holds on and keeps on keeping on.

Unfortunately, my mother had a faulty understanding of the Lord and thus, I believe, missed out on the understanding of just how much He loved her and was helping her.  While she seldom went to church, she was proud of the path my life took and the calling from God that I accepted.

Even though it was not easy for her to let me go, she did.  I graduated high school and left home to go to work in a new city and to get married.  A friend of my mother’s once told me that after I left the house, she sat on the stairs and wept. Believe me, I so understand those tears now. My mother died after a long battle with dementia not knowing anyone and trapped in a world she could not comprehend.  One of the last coherent things that my mother said to me–quietly in my ear as I was hugging her good-bye to return to home and work–“I love you more than you know.”  Oh, Mom, I knew, I knew….

As I write this tribute, I am cognizant of the fact that I chose not to mention any of Mom’s faults. Believe me, she was no saint and I learned as much about what not to do as a parent probably more than what to do.  But somehow I understood that she was doing the best she could do and chose to overlook that which she was unable to give me.

I want to encourage those of you for whom Mother’s Day raises conflicted feelings because of a bad or nonexistent relationship with your mother. I love how God can redeem even the fabric of uncomfortable memories to craft garments of grace for His children. Recall: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Thank you, Mom for being you and for parenting me to the best of your ability cause all your kids sure did turn out well….even me!

 

No More!

A number of years ago–sometime in the 80’s, I think.  I was asked to write a devotional for either ProgramAids or something that was published divisionally.  Actually, I think our Home League did a women’s program and I wrote the devotional.  In any event, I was going through some old files and came across it and thought I would share it with you.

 

Hebrews 10:15-18 (NKJV)

But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.”

 

No More! Is it a sad lament or a shout of glory? If there is “no more” of a good thing—like that chocolate cake—then it is a sad lament. But if “no more” rids us of negatives (like no more bills to pay), then we shout “NO MORE” with a note of glory.

The promise of Scripture is NO MORE MEMORY. God promises to forget our sins and iniquities; to remember them “no more”. They are thrown into the sea of forgetfulness when God pronounces them forgiven. If our sins are forgiven, they are forgotten. God has NO MORE MEMORY of them.

NO MORE OFFERING will ever be necessary for our sin. Jesus has satisfied the demand for a sin offering once and for all. The sacrifice of His sinless perfect life on the Cross of Calvary suffices for all sin for all men for all eternity. NO MORE OFFERING is necessary for our sin than the offering made by Jesus.

Because of Jesus’ atonement, we can approach God’s throne of grace with NO MORE FEAR! The veil of the temple was torn in two, giving us access into the holy of holies—“the holiest”—by Christ Jesus. We need not fear as we are invited to enter “with boldness”. We can come with NO MORE FEAR because our hearts are purified from evil conscience by the sprinkling of Jesus’ blood.

“Thou art coming to a King/Large petitions with thee bring/For His grace and power are such/None can ever ask too much.” We come with NO MORE FEAR knowing that, because Jesus has paid the price, there need be NO MORE OFFERING for our sin—and when God forgives, He has NO MORE MEMORY of that sin. HALLELUJAH!