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For those who serve

“Thank you for your service.”

It seems a small thing to say to the men and women who give themselves to the United States government, turning their lives upside down for freedom’s cause.

thank-you-for-your-service

Sweet William and I shared a dinner table with friends last night, two of them veterans. They received a little perk at the restaurant for their status. It seemed a small reward for the years of their lives dedicated to the purpose of protecting the nation.

Parades, a free dessert or appetizer, special sales at local stores will never be enough. The ultimate gift of giving one’s life, whether that ends in death or living life in the shadow of the experience, is something we as Americans should acknowledge regularly.

hacksaw-ridge

Local theaters are currently showing Hacksaw Ridge, the story of Desmond Doss who wanted to served his country during World War II, but because of his religious beliefs, he did not want to carry a gun. He was called a conscientious objector. I have not seen the movie yet, but friends are recommending it.

The movie holds an attraction for me because my father was also a conscientious objector. He joined the Army, wanting to be of service to his country but not wanting to risk killing anyone. He was willing to leave his young bride, his beloved church, and his home and family to do his duty.

Once in the military, the Army did not know what to do with my dad. He was transferred from one base to another. About the time he would settle in one place and make a friend or two, he would be sent to some place brand new to him and start the process again.

Dad was a man of principles, even as a young man. Having given His heart and life to Jesus and claiming Him as Savior and Lord of his life as a child, he sought to please God. He developed habits of Christian behavior that became a way of life for him. He was dedicated to keeping those habits as part of his daily living. To my dad it was his way of demonstrating his love for God.

One of those nightly habits was prayer time. He knelt by his bed each night before surrendering to sleep.

So imagine, my dad in a military barracks with a group of men doing what men do after a day of training as he knelt by the bunk to pray. Silence, shock, amazement, ridicule. He experienced all of those reactions. Those other recruits did not know what to think of this strange and “overly relgious” guy.

Now imagine him doing that at each new place he was sent with another group of soldiers he did not know yet and who did not know him.

He suffered for his choice, for being true to his conscience and how he felt he needed to follow his God. He eventually went overseas and spent 25 months in the European conflict. He found his place of service in the kitchen, regularly cooking up delicious meals and cherry pies for the soldiers. He received commendation for cooking under battle conditions.

Dad was proud of that commendation. He was deeply patriotic. His detailed stories of his time spent in the military, of God’s grace and mercy, were some of my favorites, though I heard them again and again through the years.

He served his country, exactly like he wanted to do. He did it without carrying a weapon, what his heart dictated.

dad-in-the-army

I’m proud of my father and his sacrifice, and my heart swells with emotion when the flag waves strong and proud as I remember those who have given their lives for me and continue to do so.

Our country emerges from a long political conflict. Some are still so unwilling to accept the outcome and move forward that they perpetuate division, hatred, and unrest at a time when we need to stand together.

Pray for the peace of America. Pray for the peaceful passing of the torch from the incumbent president to the president-elect. Pray that wisdom will reign supreme in the choices of cabinet members and staff. Pray that God will be honored by the direction our nation takes.

And pray for the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way for our sake every single day.

We walk freely because they serve.

 

Sabbath serving

Today the church left the building and went out to serve.

Little Flock, where Sweet William and I go each week to worship and to learn, went  into the community, putting hands and feet to what we preach and teach.  And what we preach and teach is Jesus.

Jesus called us to love like He did.  We, His followers, are to do more than just gather weekly at a building.  In fact, the church is not the facility where we meet, not the brick and mortar.  The church is the people.

Today, we acted like the church and participated in Operation Inasmuch.

Teams went to build a deck, to clean up homes and schools grounds.  Others prepared treats for our civil servants and bus drivers. Children wrote thank you notes and big people filled back packs with school supplies.  So many people were doing the work of Jesus, not just talking about it.

If we are to live like Jesus, then let us do what Jesus did, love like Jesus loved, help the hurting, visit the lonely, encourage the downcast.  Let us move from the pews to the neighborhoods.

Let the church be the church.

Sunday grace, friends.

operation inasmuch

#LFInAsMuch

In memory

Memorial: preserving the memory of a person or thing; commemorative.

Memorial Day is not just the beginning of the summer holidays.  It’s not just another three-day weekend when we get to sleep in or catch up on yard work.  It’s not just a time to gather with friends and family for a cookout.

It’s about remembering.  Remembering how much our freedom cost.  Because freedom is never free.  It is costly, expensive. The price is the lives of men and women who laid down their all.

My grandfather was a World War 1 veteran.  My father and my father-in-law were WW2 veterans.  I have family members and friends who served in the military.  And I have a young friend who is in boot camp right now.  I’ve heard stories of sacrifice and of being away from home and hearth and all that is familiar.

I’ve watched the news as flag-covered caskets were lowered out of airplanes, rolled into halls where mourners came to pay their last respects.  Did I even consider that this life was an exchange for mine?

When I see the veterans march in parade or stand to salute the flag my admiration for them swells and tears fill my eyes sometimes.  They have sacrificed in a way in which I am not acquainted.

This morning I sit in my home with the freedom to choose how I will spend this day.  I am not concerned about bombs or military forces coming to take me captive.  I can travel through multiple states to visit my family-too-far-away.  I can attend the church of my choice.  I can vote my conscience.  I can carry a weapon to defend my self.  I can work and earn a wage.  I can go to college and pursue my calling and my dreams.  I can shop where I want.  I can get to a doctor or a hospital and expect good treatment.  I can write words on the world-wide web.

My freedom is precious.  I value living in the United States of America.  She has her problems, no doubt, but her flag waves red, white and blue because of people who gave the ultimate for me.  The living and the dead.  They served their country.  They served me.

And I will not forget.

flags

The heart of a servant

 

Looking into the heart of a servant is a wondrous thing. I glimpsed its extraordinary depths this weekend.

More than a dozen men and women descended upon us to work in the yard and around the house that belongs to the son who moved to Tulsa in September, leaving an empty home and a Grammy with empty arms that long to hold the family that used to live next door.

An empty house begins to look unkempt, uncared for. The family that filled it up with love and laughter, with work and play, with yard swings and toys, with flower gardens and tomato plants, with lawn chairs with cups of coffee are long gone.

I’ve walked the boundaries of the lot, looked at that vacant building and a yard that keeps growing taller weeds and wondered how in this wide world I could get it into a shape and ready it for renters.

The word got out that I needed help to accomplish a task I was not able to do alone. Then the word got around. On Friday and Saturday, the servant hearts showed up with lawn tractors, weed eaters, weed sprayers, work gloves and a mind to serve. They brought their joy, fruit matured by the Holy Spirit.

And I was overwhelmed by the sight of them.

From 7:30 until almost noon they mowed and cut and pruned. They gathered tree limbs and salvaged bird feeders and risked poison ivy. They moved boulders and trash and all the while smiled and laughed and shared the fellowship of those who gladly work together.

And I was moved to tears. This house had not been so happy in months.

We ate together, food prepared and sent by daughters of my heart, and it was communion because the Lord Jesus was in our midst.

There were people from our Sunday School class, people from other classes, people I know and people I don’t. Yet we were brothers and sisters all.

Some left quietly without me even getting to say “thank you.” Others stayed to finish the final clean up and sit for one more glass of sweet tea.

For almost two years now, I’ve been on the receiving end of grace upon grace from fellow believers who have offered help to Sweet William and me on a long road of sickness and operations and hospitalizations.

I used to think I could manage on my own, being the independent, stubborn woman I am.  But I’ve learned to look at the one who offers a gift and say, “Yes, that would be so nice. Thank you.” It’s been a hard pill to swallow at times because Ive been more comfortable being on the giving side. After all, doesn’t Scripture say it is more blessed to give than receive?

Consider Jesus and His life of giving. Giving the very Words of God, giving bread and fish, giving healing, giving forgiveness, giving His life.

Yet there came a season when a woman brought an expensive alabaster box of precious ointment and poured out her gift on Jesus. Others around Him thought it was quite improper, wasteful even, for Jesus to receive from such as she was. But he said, “Let her alone . . . She has done a good work for me.”

That is what has happened to us. These Image bearers have done a good work for us.

They came to the house to let our dog out for potty breaks while I stayed in the hospital with Bill. They brought fully cooked meals and some extra for the freezer. Children delivered home-made cookies and chocolate covered strawberries. They signed up for daily dinner duty when the family in Tulsa came impromptu for a working-on-the-house visit right after Bill came home from the hospital. They came to change light bulbs that were too high so I would not have to climb on a ladder. They trimmed my hedges. They weeded my gardens. They listened when I needed to talk. They offered to dust and vacuum, fold laundry, scrub toilets. They sent encouraging cards, emails, Facebook messages. They came inside the house and prayed and touched us and hugged us when we needed to feel human flesh.

I am humbled by these gifts of service and the servants who bring them.  I realize I am not that independent soul I thought I was. I am part of the Body. The Body that hurts when one of its members hurts. The Body that turns its attention to the pain, trying to ease the suffering in whatever way it can. The Body that laughs together and cries together and works together and worships together.

This is the Body of Christ at its best. Soothing the suffering. Bringing the gift of service. Being present to share the season of joy and sorrow.  We fellowship at the Lord’s table with the bread and the cup because we all are needy and we all are forgiven and we all can offer the hand to another.

I look forward to the day when I will be on the giving side again.

It is not that I think I can repay what has been done for us. As a wise old friend said to me, “Friends don’t keep count.”

How can I give back to all who have given? How can I love the way I’ve been loved? How can the life of Jesus the Servant live and move and have His being in me?

Surely, this season of our lives will pass eventually. Sweet William and I will be able to offer sanctuary, a helping hand, a loving touch and an encouraging word to a weary traveler.

Until then, I offer a promise from Holy Writ to all of those precious servants who have a heart like their Savior:

“Give and it shall be given unto you – a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over – will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38

Paybacks are out of this world!