Part of the retirement process when leaving the military is to make sure that one’s physical maladies or challenges are all reviewed by the Veterans Administration to determine if the veteran may be owed compensation. I had to undergo a battery of tests to see if past injuries or problems with my Achilles tendon, ankles, knees, hips, lower back, shoulder, hearing, sinuses, hair loss and sleep deprivation were service-related. I was asked all kinds of personal questions by the sleep psych0logist I met with to see if anxiety, depression, any kind of drug or chemical addiction etc. were preventing me from falling asleep. I mentioned multiple times that my problem getting to sleep is lifelong and has to do with an overactive brain that does not shut off easily. I assured her that even though it is a battle for me to rest, I am mostly full of joy and did not blame the military for my condition. I don’t think she was expecting that answer.
Zephaniah 3:15,16--The Lord has removed your punishment; He has turned back your enemy. The King of Israel, Yahweh, is among you; you need no longer fear harm. On that day it will be said to Jerusalem: “Do not fear; Zion, do not let your hands grow weak.
I heard an excellent message from a pastor recently about not defending ourselves when we are betrayed or attacked. His point was that no matter what we say in defense we cannot undo the damage and we may actually make things worse. If we have done what is right and are slandered, lied about, or smeared unfairly, the best course of action is to continue to live our lives righteously and trust God for the results. If close friends ask what is happening, we may share with them . . . The point is: don’t retaliate, defend, or excuse ourselves.
This is not easy. To hold our peace when warred against is like watching mosquitoes take blood and not swatting them. Why would we do that?
There is growing hysteria over the activities of extremist Muslims and the accelerated advance of Islam throughout the world. Christians, Jews and Secularists discuss strategies as to how to contain those who are bent on converting the world by force to their beliefs and the application of Sharia law. Muslims who insist on forcefully disseminating their ideology are labeled as the enemy. As news outlets report the growing war with these practitioners often my mind is filled with critical thoughts about Muslims and I so quickly cheer when they are defeated or destroyed. But God’s Word rebukes me.
Romans 14:19—So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another.
One of the greatest hindrances to the deepening of relationships is our propensity to want to change those around us. While our motives may seem pure, in fact if we are not careful there is an ever subtle danger that our distilled rationale for fixing others is in fact for our own betterment. Much of the time what we want from others or even for ourselves is not necessarily what God wants.
Friday I drove with Normi for five hours to Spokane unsure of Aunt B.J.’s condition. At the age of 83, it would be bad enough to have one intestinal surgery, but she was now recovering from a second operation within a week with no food in her system and a weak heart. Her second surgery removed a blockage the size of a football. It was not surprising that she was very tired when we finally arrived on the 10thfloor of Deaconess Hospital and walked into her room.
Brian Birdwell in his book Refined by Fire wrote, “We all face personal fires—those life-changing, traumatic times when the course of our lives are altered.” On September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked and crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon. MAJ Brian Birdwell was so close to the impact area that the ensuing explosion burned 60% of his body. He endured over thirty surgeries, fought off numerous life-threatening infections and suffered continuous horrific pain to the point that he “begged God constantly to let me die.”
Dinner with Carlos and his family turned out to be quite extraordinary. We arrived looking to encourage them with our Hope and instead enjoyed rich fellowship. Francisco, Rocio, and their three children all have a strong faith in God. While eating Rocio’s incredible Tamales, I asked Francisco how he came to meet the Lord.
I am continuously amazed at how effectively Satan derails relationships among Christians through bad reports and conflict. Teams of people who functioned well in ministry become divided. Churches split. Friendships end often without either party working hard to find the source of the problem. How quickly we believe bad information about fellow believers without bothering to investigate the facts or appreciate the potential for misunderstanding. I realize why bad news sells newspapers—trouble is as attractive as a bug-zapper. But how sad it is that Christians so easily judge and condemn each other at the expense of God’s kingdom when we should be champions of forbearance.
When Nancy was thirteen years old she was diagnosed with a disease in her heart, osteoporosis, and the verdict that she would never bear children. She and her mother bargained with God. They would pray wherever they were every day for two months at six a.m. and six p.m. if He would heal her. At home they had no food and life was miserable. One day several Costa Ricans came to her Nicaraguan church. While the visiting pastor spoke with Nancy’s mom, his wife spoke with Nancy. On a Friday afternoon she told her that she would receive everything back in double for her faithfulness. On Monday when the doctors examined her, she was completely healed. Though He did not have too, God in His mercy, blessed the young girl.
One day Jesus asked His disciples to go with Him across the lake. So they got in a boat and begin crossing the Sea of Galilee when a fierce storm without warning hit them. I love this story of adventure and danger for the lessons it teaches us.
Studying the Easter story gives us amazing insight into what it means to be human. Jesus on many occasions told His disciples that He was going to die even hinting to how He would be killed (John 12:23-32). But His forewarning was unfathomable and when He was crucified they were devastated. The beloved Apostle John records “In the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because of their fear of the Jews. Then Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” (John 20:19). Imagine the men who watched Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead, calm an angry sea, feed thousands with a few pieces of bread and fish, heal a man blind from birth and silence the brightest religious minds with pithy one-liners, reduced to hiding in a room afraid for their own lives. When Jesus appeared to them His action gives us brilliant insight into the human need. He didn’t recount the Sermon on the Mount, review the Lord’s prayer, or scold them for hiding. He simply shared with them three words. “Peace to you!” He filled their despondent hearts with joy and courage that eventually turned the world upside down.
I often notice when I meet people for the first time they look at my chest. Now that sounds weird doesn’t it! What I mean is that when I am wearing a uniform I often feel like I am being sized up or evaluated for the cloth patches sewn on my shirt. Whether it is the military, Girl Scouts, AWANA, varsity jackets, etc., patches, medals ribbons and pins tell a story of what kind of training or accomplishments a person achieved.
Julie* smiled at me but her radiant ivories could not hide eyes that hurt. In five years with Curt he had yet to give her flowers. She would drop hints. Once,she shared why her dad gave her mother special plants. But practical Curt mentally pictured shriveled bouquets and concluded why waste money on something that won’t last. Curt did not understand that flowers were not the real issue.
If someone were to ask you what the secret for living a fulfilled life is, what would you say? There are probably a dozen great responses.
Before I go to bed I let the dogs out to do their thing. A most amusing pattern has developed. Dusty, our Labrador Retriever runs around the perimeter of the back yard and grunts—a well refined canine message! He knows if he barks I’ll get mad at him for waking our great neighbors. So he’s modified his approach to accomplish his objective—scare the whiskers off the cats next store and forewarn the raccoons that it’s a good time to vacate. It doesn’t matter if an active heartbeat is anywhere near, every night he’s going to run down the fence line with his hair at attention while his lungs expel a guttural warning. I happen to know it’s all show—but to the surrounding creatures he is their nemesis. If it were not for the fence they would be in trouble.
Quarantine is a condition of forced isolation often imposed upon those with a contagious disease, or to determine if someone is in fact infected. My computer has the capability to quarantine off sectors in which a virus has been discovered. This built-in protective measure is intended to keep my hard drive from crashing!
Silence is golden. It is a paradoxical potion to a stressed spirit. I say paradoxical because often in our busyness we cry out for God and we cannot hear Him. He may seem absent from the roar of everyday life. Indeed, I wonder if we crowd Him out by out incessant action. No wonder He impressed upon the sons of Korah “He says, 'Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth'” (Psalm 46:10--NIV).