A devotional to help military families stay connected during deployments

Affairs of the Heart

Written by Jocelyn. Filed Under Marriage & Family

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Editor’s Note:  We are pleased to post a devotion from Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives.  While this particular writing by Jocelyn Green is specifically for wives, the “question to share” at the end will ask if the same considerations might apply to husbands.  Please know that there is sequel entitled Faith Deployed . . . Again.

Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life. — Proverbs 4:23

A woman in our military unit had been corresponding with her old boyfriend for months, unbeknownst to her husband (but shared with the other wives), emailing and instant messaging late into the night. She was convinced she would be happier if she filed for divorce, hoped for the best for her children, and returned to the arms of the one she did not marry.

While the geographical distance prevented her from having a physical relationship with this man, she was clearly in an emotional affair. Perhaps she thought that emailing couldn’t hurt anything. But the more she shared of her heart with him, the more her desires bent toward being with him as a permanent solution to her loneliness and dissatisfaction in her own marriage.

The fact that it is common makes it no less tragic. Each one of us is vulnerable to the same situation. Those of us who would “never have an affair” might just be feeling lonely enough to mention it to a sympathetic man. If he offers us the male attention we are craving, if he makes us feel special, how can our hearts not want to go back for more? While not every emotional affair ends up in a physical affair, you can bet that every physical affair once began as an emotional affair.

Matthew 5:27-28 in The Message says, “You know the next commandment pretty well, too: ‘Don’t go to bed with another’s spouse.’ But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks (or thoughts) you think nobody notices—they are also corrupt.”

It’s inevitable that you will notice attractive men—and that isn’t sinful. It would be sinful if we allow that attraction to spur us on to develop an emotional attachment to that man. Here are some questions Shannon Ethridge, in Every Woman’s Battle, suggests we ask ourselves to evaluate whether we, as married women, are in dangerous territory:

–Do you think of this man often (several times each day) even though he is not around?
–Do you select your daily attire based on whether you will see this person?
–Do you go out of your way to run into him, hoping he’ll notice you?
–Do you wonder if he feels any attraction toward you?

One way to play it safe and help guard our hearts is to guard our mouths. Flirting, complimenting, complaining, confessing, and inappropriate counseling and praying are all ways of communicating that could lead to a deeper relationship—in other words, avoid them!

If you find yourself struggling to reserve your heart’s affections for your husband, seek out a trusted friend (same gender) to serve as an accountability partner to you . You are less likely to stumble if you know you’ll have to report it. “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17)

Pray: Lord, Help me guard my heart, especially when my husband is away. I know that Satan would love nothing more than to undermine my marriage and watch it fall apart. Alert me when my thoughts drift into inappropriate territory. Help me take every thought captive to Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions to Share:

1. This devotional was written for wives, but in what ways is the advice the same for husbands?

2. When illicit thoughts cross our minds, what can we do to starve those desires?

Jocelyn Green is an award-winning freelance writer and author of Faith Deployed:Daily Encouragement for Military Wives (www.faithdeployed.com), from which this devotional was reposted with permission from Moody Publishers. She is also the co-author of Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan. Jocelyn and her husband Rob live with their two children in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Shine the Light

Written by Linda. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” —John 3:19-20

I remember Ruth Bell Graham’s teaching from years ago on the power of light. She said that film crews were coming into their log cabin home in North Carolina to interview her husband, Billy Graham. She cleaned and cleaned—wanting everything to look just right for the cameras. When the crews arrived and set up their equipment, she was horrified by what the bright studio lights exposed—cobwebs and dust that she had missed in her cleaning! As we all know, things can be hidden in darkness.

John, the apostle John, wrote much on light. And what is this light that has come into the world? More specifically, Who is this Light that has come into the world? Mrs. Graham used her illustration above to make the point that it is the Light of Christ which exposes our sin—those things hidden in the dark corners of our lives—so that we can confess and receive forgiveness for our sin. If we think that we do not have sin, we have Romans 3:23 (“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”) and 1 John 1:8 (“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us”) to remind us that we need the Light.

John tells us:

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” —John 8:12

“I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.” —John 12:46

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.” —John 1:1-4

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”. —1 John 1:5-7

We hear much teaching on the fact that “God is love” (1 John 4:16). But how does He demonstrate that love? In Romans 5:8 we read, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” So what I can put together from this is that I needed God as Light to expose my dark sins and then God as Love could forgive me through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross as the perfect sacrifice.

Dr. Simon J. Kistemaker, Professor of New Testament Emeritus at Reformed Theological Seminary and author of New Testament Commentary writes, “We often see plaques on walls and bumper stickers on cars that tell the world that ‘God is love.’ But no one displays the sign ‘God is light.’ But light comes before love, for light uncovers that which is hidden in darkness. And when it has been exposed, it must then be removed. The removal is the result of love. God is light for He exposes our sin—God is love because He sent His Son to remove it. Don’t forget though that He is always light before He is love.”

What does this have to do with deployment?

Questions to Share:

1. How can you pray for your spouse during this deployment, so that they can be light in a dark place?

2. If you have not done this already, choose a period of the day when you and your spouse can agree to pray for each other (if possible).

“Father, Keep Me Pure!”

Written by Matt. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword,and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. — Hebrews 4:12

As I came off the C-130 that just landed and began to unload my belongings, I was met by the non-commissioned officer whom I was sent to replace. It was in the early morning hours in Iraq, but already the sun was up and the temperature was rising. As we set out from the airport and embarked on the thirty minute drive to the office, I began to tune into my new surroundings. The pot-hole filled roads jostled our Explorer back-and-forth, but my mind was also jostled by what I was hearing on the radio—musical lyrics glorifying matters of “the flesh.”And on my first shopping trip I could also see the wide-range of commodities being readily offered—everything from electronics and shoes to violent video games and pornography. Just like in the States, the temptations were all available. I knew I must be careful—and staying in God’s word would be invaluable to my time there.

So I took the time while deployed to read through the Bible from cover-to-cover. I decided to read through the Old Testament six days a week and then the New Testament one day a week. It was exciting to see what God was teaching me, reminding me, and how He was moving my heart as I examined His word. It was a special time to think, and I had the opportunity to ponder what God said about temptation and sin—my own included.

On one particular night, I read this passage in Deuteronomy which really caused me to think about how Christians are to feel about the seriousness of sin:

“If a slain person is found lying in the open country in the land which the LORD your God gives you to possess, and it is not known who has struck him, then your elders and your judges shall go out and measure the distance to the cities which are around the slain one. It shall be that the city which is nearest to the slain man, that is, the elders of that city, shall take a heifer of the herd, which has not been worked and which has not pulled in a yoke; and the elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a valley with running water, which has not been plowed or sown, and shall break the heifer’s neck there in the valley. Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come near, for the LORD your God has chosen them to serve Him and to bless in the name of the LORD; and every dispute and every assault shall be settled by them. All the elders of that city which is nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley; and they shall answer and say, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it. Forgive Your people Israel whom You have redeemed, O LORD, and do not place the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of Your people Israel.’ And the bloodguiltiness shall be forgiven them. So you shall remove the guilt of innocent blood from your midst, when you do what is right in the eyes of the LORD.”— Deuteronomy 21:1-9

We are prone to read these Old Testament verses thinking that they have nothing to say to us today, but such was not the case that night. Here, Moses reveals an illustration of how Israel was to react to the sins of others, and I thought about the real application in my life and the lives of Christians. Just as Israel was to mourn over the secret murder of a man, and Israel was to sacrifice a heifer to God as atonement for this sin, Christians are to mourn over the sin of others just as much as we mourn over our own sin. We can look around today and see Satan’s hand in communities and societies—and often see it buried and disguised within other ideologies, covered up in people’s private lives, praised in our entertainment culture, and displayed in political and corporate corruption and hypocrisy. Even the church is not untainted by sin’s curse and Satan’s attack.

What should our reaction as Christians be? According to Deuteronomy 21:1-9, we are to mourn over sin. We are to ask the Father to forgive our wicked ways, to show His mercy and grace on our world. We are to pray, “Forgive Your people whom You have redeemed, O LORD, and do not place the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of Your people.” We should agree with Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” and Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

When I was studying during deployment, I was moved by my reading,  and my spirit was impressed to pray, “Father, we thank You for Your mercy and grace. We thank You for Your faithfulness to deliver Your people from the penalty of sin. We thank You for salvation, and for the hope of Christ’s return which will completely deliver us from the effects of sin. Father, we mourn over our own sin and the sin that we see committed around us. We know that it is an abomination to You and that You hate anything contrary to who You are. We ask that You forgive us for turning from You and indulging in sin. Father, we ask that You would keep us from sin and that we would not even desire its pleasures, that You would teach us to discipline our bodies, that You would teach us to walk in Your ways, and derive our pleasure completely from You. We ask that You would change our hearts that we would mourn over sin, and that we would be so close to You that we would be sensitive to the sin around us, and we would run from it. I especially pray this for myself, Father. Keep me pure.”

Questions to Share:

1. Is your conscience troubled by sin in your midst, no matter where you live?

2. Is your desire to go to God, asking for forgiveness, for your own sin and the sins of others?

Heartfelt Prayers

Written by Linda. Filed Under Prayer

Editor’s Note: In case you are looking for a last-minute gift for someone experiencing deployment, or perhaps someone related to a member of the military—consider shopping for these two books. They are excellent (and praiseworthy) choices to encourage a heart.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.” James 5:16, The Message

It is a blessing to start my day with the reading of a devotion (or two or three) before reading from my Bible.  It’s sort of like stretching before going out to run—a bit of a warm-up to get my mind tuned-in before studying His Word.  I hope Excellent or Praiseworthy does the same for you—getting you to think on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely admirable, excellent or praiseworthy.  God commanded us to do that in Philippians 4:8 and it is the goal of our twice-weekly postings.

books-composite2Because I enjoy devotional books so much, I am happy to recommend two books from 2008 specifically written for military members and those who love and pray for them.  Particularly inspiring are the prayers at the end of each Scripture-based devotional entry. Since these prayers were written for you, let me share some of them as a means of encouraging you during these tender days. The following are from The One Year Yellow Ribbon Devotional, authored by Brenda Pace and Carol McGlothlin:

“Father, thank you for the encouragement of your Word today.  Help me to stand firm in your grace and to speak words of hope to someone today.  I pray for those in the military who might feel discouraged.  May they look to you for help and guidance, and may they know that they are not alone when they call out to you.  Amen.” (“You Can Do It!” reading for February 22)

“Creator of the universe, ‘How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!’ (Psalm 139:17-18). Remind me of the sacrifice military personnel make being away from family and loved ones. Comfort their hearts, and give them an awareness of your closeness and care. Amen.” (“Somewhere Out There”, reading for March 16)

“Father, I choose to be grateful for the trials you allow me to experience. I pray my attitude would be one of perseverance and hope as I look forward to the day when trials on this earth will be complete. Bless those who are persevering under extremely difficult circumstances as they serve on battlefields around the world. Amen.” (“An Ugly Couch”, reading for March 31)

“Great Physician of body and soul, thank you for your delivering power. Help me to stand still in prayer and devotion, not from duty but for love. Make my faith strong and steady as I trust you to work in the situations that concern me today. I pray for the faith of those who feel as if their world is spinning out of control because of circumstances brought on by the War on Terror. In your name I pray. Amen.” (“Stand Still”, reading for April 9)

“Loving Savior, you came to bring a personal message of love and hope to individuals like me, my neighbors, and my fellow Americans serving the country in the military. Thank you for your personal presence and involvement in my life. Your coming changed the world, and your coming changed me. Help me never to lose the child-like wonder as I stand to praise you! Bring that same wonder to those servicemen and women who do not yet know you. Amen.” (“Hey, unto You a Child Is Born!”, reading for December 25)

The other devotional is entitled Faith Deployed, and is written by Jocelyn Green and fourteen other contributing authors from every branch of the U.S. military. It touched my heart that this book is devoted to the memory of Denise McColl, who impacted my life with her book, Footsteps of the Faithful

There are eighty-six devotions in Faith Deployed, and each one ends with a prayer. Let me share some of them:

“Lord, Increase my faith and give me the discipline and courage so that I might surrender my life, my hopes, and my dreams to You daily. Help me to desire Your glory more than my own comfort and convenience. Show me what it means to be submitted to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.” (“When Surrender Means Victory” by Jocelyn Green).

“Lord, Thank you that You are totally in control of the decisions the nations’ leaders are making presently. I choose not to lean on my own understanding. Bind the ugly spirit of fear from me, from my husband, from our children, from our family and friends.  Draw us close to You through all of this, to hear You, to see You, to serve You better than ever before.  And, Lord when it’s all over, may we never revert to the place from which You moved us, grew us, and strengthened us.  Help us, at this difficult intersection, to choose to stay on the road You’ve marked out for us in Your perfect wisdom and love. Use me, Lord, as You see best.  Don’t allow me to be overcome by fear or paralyzed by hopelessness or anger. Empty me of me and fill me with You. Not mine, but Your will be done. In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.”  (“Though My Heart Quakes. . .” by Marshele Carter Waddell)

“Lord, First John 4:8 reminds me that Your very nature is love. When my trust in You is shaken, remind me of Your character.  As I journey through the difficult places in this life, teach me to draw near to You and be covered in Your great love for me. El-shaddai, You are sufficient for the needs of Your people.  Give me courage and hope as I choose to trust You with all my heart.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.” (“Trust” by Rebekah Benimoff with Jocelyn Green)

I hope these prayers spoke to your heart today. Perhaps they even inspired you to pray more fervently for your loved ones serving in the military—or even for yourself.

Consider what the great writer on prayer, E. M. Bounds, wrote about the purpose of prayer:

“Without prayer the Christian life, robbed of its sweetness and its beauty, becomes cold and formal and dead; but rooted in the secret place where God meets and walks and talks with His own, it grows into such a testimony of divine power that all men will feel its influence and be touched by the warmth of its love. Thus, resembling Our Lord and master, we shall be used for the glory of God and the salvation of our fellowmen. And that, surely, is the purpose of all real prayer and the end of all true service.”  E. M. Bounds, who served as a chaplain during the Civil War, wrote The Purpose of Prayer which was published in 1920.

“Is any one of you in trouble?  He should pray.” –James 5:13

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Bounds, E. M., The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer (Grand Rapids:  Baker Books, compiled in 1990), p. 365.

Green, Jocelyn. Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives (Chicago:  Moody Publishers, 2008).

Pace, Brenda and McGlothlin, Carol. The One Year Yellow Ribbon Devotional (Carol Stream:  Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008).

Questions to Share:

  1. Right now, take some time to pray for those whom you know are in need.
  2. Pray for yourself, that you will grow in faith, hope, and love as you serve our country.
  3. Ask your spouse to pray for you in specific areas in which you are struggling.
  4. Ask your spouse how you can pray for them in areas in which they are struggling.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. — Genesis 1:1

The wives in the ladies’ Bible study group at the base chapel were nervous. Their husbands were returning home from deployment—and they were all hesitant, but honest, to admit that they were anxious about the transition of reintegration. We read Psalm 145 (the great psalm of God’s majesty) together . . . then prayed . . . then discussed. Our discussion included a sharing of times past when God’s faithfulness was evident in their lives. Their hearts were stilled as they remembered what they already knew—that God the Creator was sovereign.

In the burning sands of Afghanistan, a soldier opened his care package from home. In it was another calendar—this time with pictures of beautiful flowers up against a background of majestic snow-capped mountains. His wife told me that it didn’t matter what the year was—the calendars she sent were ones she found with beautiful pictures of nature. . . and sometimes with Scripture in the margins. God’s created beauty ministered to her husband’s weary heart in a way he couldn’t describe—but was very real. God’s presence revealed in creation comforted his war-torn soul.

Veterans of many deployments, a military couple had to make a decision soon regarding their future. He had plans and concerns—she had plans and concerns. They went round and round with their discussions, trying to decide whether to “stay in” or “get out”, seemingly getting nowhere. It wasn’t until they went to church and joined their hearts in praise and worship to God the Father that they agreed to pray together, seeking God’s guidance. Their prayers were simple—using the Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication model (ACTS). But their prayers were made together, holding hands. Demonstrating the unity given by God in the Trinity, even before creation, they praised and they pleaded . . . and their Father answered.

It all begins with creation . . . which begins with the Creator. If you find yourself feeling empty today—with doubts, frustrations, concerns bearing down on you, consider reading these verses of adoration, beauty, and correction to set your heart on the one who loves you enough to give this beautiful world—and to send His Son, Jesus Christ, into it . . . just for you.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.” John 1:1-4

“It is I who made the earth and created man upon it. I stretched out the heavens with My hands and I ordained all their host.” Isaiah 45:12

“Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” Psalm 90:2

“The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.” Isaiah 45:7

“When He established the heavens, I was there, when He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep, when He made firm the skies above, when the springs of the deep became fixed, when He set for the sea its boundary so that the water would not transgress His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth; Then I was beside Him, as a master workman; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him, rejoicing in the world, His earth, and having my delight in the sons of men.” Proverbs 8:27-31

“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” Revelation 4:11

“The LORD is good to all; and His mercies are over all His works. All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD, and Your godly ones shall bless You. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom and talk of Your power, to make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts and the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.” Psalm 145:9-12

“Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God and a great King above all gods, in whose hand are the depths of the earth, the peaks of the mountains are His also. The sea is His, for it was He who made it, and His hands formed the dry land.” Psalm 95:2-5

“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, whatever passes through the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!” Psalm 8:3-8

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:15-17

“Lift your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing.” Isaiah 40:26

“Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; the LORD of hosts is His name . . .” Jeremiah 31:35

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

“For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind and declares to man what are His thoughts, He who makes dawn into darkness and treads on the high places of the earth, the LORD God of hosts is His name.” Amos 4:13

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1,2

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” Job 38:4

“Thus says the LORD: ‘Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool . . . For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,’ declares the LORD.” Isaiah 66:1,2

“Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called; I am He; I am the first, I am also the last. Surely my hand founded the earth, and My right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand together.” Isaiah 48:12,13

“Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it.” Deuteronomy 10:14

“Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” Psalm 33:8,9

“Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations; You established the earth, and it stands.” Psalm 119:89,90

Questions to Share:

1. Which of the verses above encourage you in a particular situation you are currently facing?

2. Share with your spouse a time when a scene of beauty—whether observed in person or photo—encouraged your heart. It can be as grand as the expanse of the Grand Canyon, or as simple as the smile of a child presenting a bouquet of dandelions.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Editor’s Note: Sometimes it helps to look back and see how things got started—just to be reminded. We are privileged to post a story that does just that. This testimony was given at an Upward football game six years ago by an Air Force wife whose husband was about to deploy for the eighth time . . . . and has not forgotten how it all began.

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. — Proverbs 18:10

I have the great privilege of coaching the Upward cheerleading squad and am married to the fearless Upward referee commissioner. We have four lovely children, three of whom are participating in Upward activities this morning—but it’s likely that none of this would have happened if events had gone a bit differently exactly nine years ago today. It was on that fateful morning that I found myself among the hundreds of government workers being hastily evacuated from the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D. C. Word was circulating that YES, another plane was headed right for us. I was twenty-seven years old and had been married for only six weeks.

At that time, I worked in the daily press gallery for the United States House of Representatives. Basically, our office was the workspace for the daily newspaper reporters assigned to Capitol Hill. On that particular September 11th, I was in the House Chamber keeping a log of House business when one of my co-workers hurried in to share the news of the first plane hitting one of the towers of the World Trade Center. We instantly assumed it was a horrible accident. The office itself was full of reporters and staffers alike glued to one of the many TVs.

Then the second plane hit and we knew none of what was happening was an accident. All of our hearts ached for the people on the planes and the people in the unbelievably tall Towers. How many people work there and how do they get out?

But in less than thirty minutes everything REALLY changed for us in Washington, D.C. Many of us were watching news coverage from within the Pentagon when the camera shook and the news anchor reacted suddenly. There were gasps and yelling all around me. Our office windows faced the Pentagon and we could see a HUGE plume of the blackest smoke you’ve ever seen.

It wasn’t just New York. Washington, D.C. was now under attack. And if you’ve ever been there, you know, the U.S. Capitol Building with its dome is gigantic, on top of a hill and at the end of a huge open grassy park, The National Mall, or as my pilot husband called it . . . .a runway. We all knew if another plane was coming, the U.S. Capitol Building was the likely target.

I mentioned that we were ‘hastily evacuated.’ We really weren’t evacuated at all. Within moments of the Pentagon being hit, the wide-eyed Capitol Police officers were telling everyone simple to GET OUT NOW. These were the days when the only emergency plan in place was for the people who were in line for the Presidency. Everyone else was on his or her own, and so we scattered to anywhere we could walk, so long as it was OFF Capitol Hill.

I remember walking quickly, very quickly, down those historic marble steps out front as I took a moment to look behind me at that beautiful white dome against the bluest of September skies. I prayed to God that it wouldn’t be the last time I saw it intact. I had first seen the Capitol Building when I was twelve years old on a family vacation—and fell in love instantly. A decade later when I got the job there, I vowed never to take for granted all the history that surrounded me every single day. I’ll be honest, on that September 11th, I was much more concerned for the U.S. Capitol Building’s well-being and our country’s well-being than my own.

How could that be, you may ask? I was young and newly married, my future all ahead of me. Well, I obviously didn’t WANT to lose life or limb that day but I had a peace about whatever was going to happen to me. My God, my Jesus, would take care of me one way or the other. After a long search, I finally became a born-again child of God only months before the events of September 11th. I knew my name was written in God’s book of life and I had a savior, and if God took me home that day, it was going to be all right.

And that’s one of the points I want to get across. If you’re standing here thinking ‘I’m young still. I’ll do it my way for awhile. I’ve got plenty of time to get right with God.’ I plead with you to think again. Those people on the planes didn’t think it was their last day. Those people in the World Trade Center and Pentagon didn’t think it was their last day either.

Sometimes the unthinkable happens. We just don’t know. Absolutely none of us is perfect, so we are separated from God until we recognize our NEED for a Savior, Jesus Christ and ACCEPT His gift of eternal life. It’s just that simple, and yet I know it can be difficult.

As we know now, the Capitol Building was not hit, but was it supposed to be, according to the terrorists’ plans?  Hijacked Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania as it was heading to Washington, D.C. Those brave passengers took it upon themselves to ‘change the plan’ after receiving accounts of the World Trade Center from distraught relatives on the ground. Flight 93 was the ONLY one of the four hijacked flights to be delayed that morning. If Flight 93 had not been delayed, it most likely would have been the first plane to reach its target . . . . whatever that was.

You see, God has a plan. Though it can be nearly impossible to see or understand during terrible events, God always has a plan. My four children, all born since 9/11, are all part of His plan . . . . just as each and every one of YOU are part of God’s plan. Seek His will. Pray. Read His Word and discover your role in His plan. Resist it and your path may be made more difficult, embrace it and you surely will be blessed.

Before I was saved I felt like I was grasping in all directions. Since becoming a Christian, my path has been laid before me, and yet I’ve faced some of the biggest challenges of my life along that path. Knowing it was God’s plan (and not my own), gave me the strength to get through the challenges and still does today. It was always easy to doubt myself, but not God. HE’S my rock and He can be yours, too.

I’m thankful that it was part of God’s plan for me to be able to speak to you all today. Let us pray together:  ‘Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the opportunity to share with everyone here today. May those still unsure about Your plan for them, seek You with all diligence. And please give peace to those still grieving for loved ones lost in the attacks of September 11, 2001. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.’”

Questions to Share:

1. Where were you on September 11, 2001? Share with each other your memories of that day.

2. If you had been one of those who faced possible death that day, would you have had the same peace that this military spouse had? If not, go to http://4spirituallaws.com

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” —2 Timothy 3:16

It all started at a church near Ft. Hood, Texas. We were meeting with the church-sponsored “Heroes” group—Army families who are either experiencing deployment, or redeployment and reintegration. It was a great night, with lots of good food and discussion. I asked the question, “During your last deployment, what would have helped?” A young wife named Tammy looked right at me and said, “An online devotional—that would have helped. . . .one designed for military.” At that moment, when her eyes met mine, Excellent or Praiseworthy was born.

And so it launched on September 11, 2007. We did not plan for it to begin on 9/11—that’s just when all of the necessary pieces came together. Seems symbolic and appropriate, however, considering the impact that 9/11 has had on all of our lives in this great nation, especially our military families. On this September 11th our nation remembers the tremendous sacrifice made by those who died in the face of the enemy named terrorism. We shall never forget such heroism and courage displayed that day and the days since as you defend and protect our country. And with these devotions we seek to serve you as you so faithfully serve us.

The name for this website came from Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Those in the military who are assigned the duty of defending our nation and liberating foreign nations have sacrificed much. We believe our calling in this online devotional is to offer a chance for couples to think on things which are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable in order to keep them spiritually connected and growing during their time of separation.

In the past nine years, we have posted 936 devotions—every Monday night and Thursday night.  The hope is that in the interval time between Tuesday and Friday couples will have the opportunity to read and discuss the “questions to share” over email or telephone. And many, many have. We know the site has been accessed approximately 250,000 times—from literally all over the world (192 countries–including Vanuatu?). And we know those readers are merely a subset of the total readership. Many “hits” are not recorded in our analytical data because the location of the internet servers is invisible to us for security reasons.

This large readership has been heartwarming and encouraging. Our goal has been to provide a reading which will give a couple something to read and share, prompting them to communicate at the “heart level” through Scripture, a story, and the “Questions to Share”. If a commitment to marriage is a commitment to communication, then couples who can communicate what they think and feel, without becoming defensive or feeling threatened by rejection, are couples who can weather a tough situation together. Whether by phone, letter, email, webcam, or texting, a couple needs to be creative and intentional—and willing to share at the heart level—in order to finish the deployment strong.

One reader commented: “One of the challenges my husband and I faced this past year was remaining spiritually connected when separated by miles. Once I came across the ‘Excellent or Praiseworthy’ card the military ministry leader at church had given me and got on the website, we wanted to use the ‘EorP’ devotional as a springboard to spiritual conversations, with both of us reading it prior to our phone calls. My husband and I jumped on that bandwagon late in his deployment, but I would love to equip the families who are facing pending deployments with that tool. It is a very effective ‘spiritual glue’ for separated couples.”

We have had 38 writers join this collaborative effort—providing spiritual lessons from their unique deployment stories. We are so grateful for these writers, and continue to look for more. In 2008 we added “categories.” You will notice that the devotions are in one (or more) of five categories: Prayer, Marriage and Family, Lessons from History, Spiritual Training, and National Guard/Reserves. Obviously there is overlap in these, so we encourage you to explore the entire website for helpful devotional material categorized by topic.  Through the nine years we have also added photos, and even videos.  We continue to look for ways to serve you better.

A popular feature has been “The Deployment Dare” found on the sidebar.  All forty days from the popular book The Love Dare have been re-considered to meet the challenges of “doing the Love Dare” while geographically separated by deployment. If you haven’t already, check it out!

We have observed, met and heard stories about couples who are growing closer together in their marriage relationship during deployment.  Some of these stories form the basis of EorP devotions. We have also observed, met and heard stories of individuals who are growing closer to the Lord during deployment—and we believe that the two are linked. Growing closer to the Lord will result in a closer marital bond—as God is the source of all oneness in marriage.

The legacy for the family of a couple who is intentional about their spiritual development—even in the face of the difficulties and challenges of deployment during war time—will impact generations to come for the Lord. After all, He is the one that holds couples together. “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).  He is the One whom we serve, the One whom we love, the One whom we follow. . . .and our desire is to be like Him. Thank you for your devotion to our Lord and Savior, and may God richly bless you as you serve our country!

“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” — Ephesians 3:16-21

Questions to Share:

1. In what ways do we, as a couple, desire to grow closer to each other during this deployment?

2. In what ways do I, as an individual, desire to grow closer to the Lord during this deployment?

3. How are these two desires connected?

Read more

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Editor’s Note: Scott and Sherry Jennings are the managing editors of the website “Intentionally Yours”. You can find it at www.intentionallyyours.org. We thank them for contributing to this teaching from their April 14, 2014, posting “Praying Scripture for Your Marriage”.

Praying Proverbs 3:5,6 for your marriage—“I pray that my spouse and I will trust in You, Lord, with all our hearts, and lean not on our own understanding, and that in all our ways we will acknowledge You, God, and that You shall direct our paths.”

Combining two lives, histories, households and expectations into a marriage is tough! Nothing will make you more Christ-like than marriage—if you let it.

We unfortunately see the world’s way for marriage every day as we watch friends and family seek selfishness instead of consulting the Creator of marriage. That selfishness can end in separation and divorce—instead of seeking our Creator who is the only One who can heal broken hearts and relationships.

Let’s pray life into our marriages! Especially during deployment, when you are geographically separated, praying for each other and for your marriage can bring you close together across the miles. Speaking His Word out loud over your marriage changes everything—sometimes from the death of isolation to life of oneness.

So shall My Word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11

Since God’s thoughts and ways are higher than yours in your marriage (Isaiah 55:8-9), and He tells us His Word when spoken does not return void, let’s speak His powerful Word into marriage!

Lord Jesus, I invite You into every detail of my life, marriage and family. I need You and Your perfect Word to be with me in every way possible. I love You and I love my spouse. I know that our marriage was created to honor You and give You glory! God, in accordance with Your Word I pray…

…that as for me and my house, we will serve You, Lord. Joshua 24:15

…that my spouse and I will not depart from each other. 1 Corinthians 7:10

…that my spouse and I will love each other and that we will love our children. Titus 2:4

…that as the elect of God, holy and beloved, my spouse and I put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, and longsuffering. I pray that we will bear with each other, forgiving each other, if we have a complaint against each other, even as Christ forgave us, so we also must do. But above all these things, help us to put on love, which is the bond of perfection. Colossians 3:12-14

…thanking You that it is not good for man to be alone, thank You for making for him a helper comparable to him. Genesis 2:18

…that I always understand that a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and that they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24

…that my spouse and I will let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from us, with all malice. And that we will be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as You, God, in Christ forgave us. Ephesians 4:31-32

…that my spouse and I will be of one mind, having compassion for one another, that we will be tenderhearted and courteous, not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that we were called to this, that we many inherit a blessing. 1 Peter 3:8-9

…that my spouse and I will trust in You, Lord, with all our hearts, and lean not on our own understanding, and that in all our ways we will acknowledge You, O’ God, and that You shall direct our paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

…that my spouse and I remember that hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins. Proverbs 10:12

Bring my spouse and I closer to You, Lord, than ever before! And as You draw us to You, draw us closer to each other, seeing each other the way You see us, knowing the amazing plan You have for our marriage to reflect You to the hurting world around us like nothing else. We love You, we praise You, we thank You, in the powerful name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen!

Is this a magic spell that when repeated makes everything change? No. But when we pray God’s Word, we take it into our hearts and minds, and God uses it to change our perspective. That’s why He tells us to pray for our enemies. It’s easy to pray for someone you love! And when you pray for someone you don’t like, you can’t help but love them. And honestly, sometimes we don’t like our spouses, and that is when they need love the most!

Questions to Ponder:

1. What are some Scriptures you pray into your marriage?

2. Repeat the scriptural prayer above, either alone or together with your spouse.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers (Galatians 6:7-10).

Stashed away in my “archives” was a letter printed in our overseas base magazine, dated April, 1988. I do not know who wrote it, but I saved it because it expressed heartfelt appreciation from one beginning a military career to one nearing the end in a way that was particularly relevant in our military culture.

Dear Commander’s Wife,

As you leave for a new assignment I want to thank you for all your kindness while you were here at our base.

Somehow you seemed to know how nervous it made me to be around the commander’s wife, and you always said just the right thing to put me at ease. You even sought me out, shy and alone, and now I feel comfortable talking to you at parties. I even realize you can feel lonely, too.

I like the way you treat everyone the same with a gracious smile and word to all. Thanks for asking us to call you Mary (or Sue or …) and for not wearing your husband’s rank, or any rank at all. We’re all proud of our husbands, but we can’t really rest on their achievements (even if we did help a lot!). We’re all just people, we need each other; and you showed me that I’ll be accepted and liked, or not, for my own actions.

Many of us need for you to go more than fifty percent of the way (and sometimes more than one hundred percent) and maybe that isn’t fair, but it’s true. I’m so glad you remember what it’s like to be a bride, or new to the military. This is an overwhelming organization and it can be intimidating and frustrating. But it does seem like a wonderful, patriotic life, and I’m proud and happy to be a part of it.

I know you didn’t seek the position that, to paraphrase Shakespeare, has been “thrust upon you.” But you’ve treated it as a privilege and a duty and have risen to the occasion. Even if you don’t expect it, we look to you for guidance. Thanks for sharing your experience, common sense, and good judgment. . . . Remind me to never be pretentious or power hungry, and, please, don’t let me gossip. Gossip is poison!

As I watched you on base, it seemed that if there was any good you could do for anyone, you tried to do it—the Golden Rule in action. I hope those contributions give you the satisfaction you deserve. You always encouraged us to work or teach or participate in base activities freely according to our own goals. I know I don’t need to tell you that many active career wives find time to support their husbands, and their units, because it is important to them and they enjoy it. And by the way, I appreciate your showing me how to help our friend when her husband was passed over. You put it in perspective and as you said, all careers have low spots and high spots.

We young wives need training and encouragement and opportunity as we learn from you. Please remind the other commanders’ wives. Do you remember learning to manage a home, husband, and baby? I know you do. For me, right now, it’s a lot. I feel guilty if I go out and frustrated if I stay home. I’m seeking balance in my life. You help me by encouraging me to participate and get out occasionally—but don’t ever let me neglect my husband or children. I know you wouldn’t.

So, for so many things, some that have even helped us both I hope, I say thank you. You’re really a special lady, one I’d like to be like someday.


A Lieutenant’s Wife

The Scriptures that came to my mind from this letter are those that speak to servant leadership, pure living, generational mentoring, and humility at all levels:

“ . . . whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26).

“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:10-12).

“A kindhearted woman gains respect . . . “ (Proverbs 11:16a).

“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God” (Titus 2:3-5).

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3,4).

This letter to an unknown commander’s wife was written during the days of the cold war. If it was true then, it is even more so now in these seemingly endless days of the global war on terror. The drumbeat of today’s operations tempo, sometimes with surprise deployments interrupting what was a “normal” hum of family life makes for a stressful and uncertain military career. But the opportunity is there to live the life as credited to this leader’s wife—in integrity and the modeling of a good attitude and positive perseverance.

And let us never forget—people are watching. Let them see the fruit of the Holy Spirit as demonstrated in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control which will bring the fragrance of life in Christ into any setting.

Questions to Share:

  1. Is there a commander or commander’s wife who has inspired you to godly living? Share one story of that leader with your spouse.
  2. What attributes do you want others to see in you which can be admired, respected, and modeled?

Sowing Seeds

Written by Linda. Filed Under Marriage & Family, Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

God’s ways are as mysterious as the pathways of the wind, and as the manner in which a human spirit is infused into the little body of a baby while it is yet in its mother’s womb. Keep on sowing your seed, for you never know which will grow—perhaps it all will. — Ecclesiastes 11:5,6 TLB

Some people know him as Chuck Swindoll, others as Charles Swindoll. But whichever name is more familiar to you, he’s a favorite. After pastoring a church in southern California for years, he returned to his native Texas and was president of Dallas Theological Seminary before founding Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco in 1998. But even before all of that he was a Marine. It’s his Marine stories that are always my favorite.

In his book on Ecclesiastes entitled Living on the Ragged Edge: Coming to Terms with Reality, Swindoll tells the story of his early days as a Marine—and how the Lord used him to “sow seeds” of faith in his unit:

“Less than two years after Cynthia and I had married, I joined the Marine Corps. The recruiting officer promised me that I would never have to go overseas—and I was stupid enough to believe him. You guessed it. I ended up eight thousand miles from home. And since Marines are not allowed to take their families overseas, Cynthia lived with her folks while I lived in Southeast Asia—another culture, another people, another language, another world! My comfort zone, my plans, my preferences had been invaded and interrupted.

At first I felt offended—my rights had been assaulted! Little did I realize that it was my chance to ‘sow in the morning’ (Ecclesiastes 11:6). It wasn’t long, however, before that began to emerge in my thinking.

Before I dropped the seabag off my shoulder on Okinawa, I realized I was facing the challenge of my sheltered life. . . The lifestyle on the island was somewhere between morally loose and absolutely debauched. I was a married man. I was also a Christian. I wanted to have an impact. I wanted to be different. But frankly, I was scared.

I had no special powers—I was just like every other guy in my outfit. But I had, thank God, Jesus Christ. I remember thinking this prayer as I lay on my bunk that first lonely night, ‘Lord, keep me pure. Give me ways to make Christ known. Let me declare it on the front end of this tour of duty so that I won’t have to live in the shame of a bad memory, hoping these guys never find out later on that I’m a Christian.’ I had no idea that someday I’d be in the ministry, no idea whatsoever. I simply wanted to ‘sow in the morning,’ not knowing when harvest would come.

I had a bunk mate named Eddie. I spoke to Eddie about Christ early on. He wasn’t interested, and he made it clear to me . . . So I honored Eddie’s request. Little did I realize how much he was watching me. I got involved in a Scripture memory program, participated in a prayer ministry, in street meetings and a discipleship program . . .

I wanted so much to reach Eddie, but I was at a loss to know how. One day it occurred to me, ‘Well, he doesn’t want me to witness to him, but maybe he’ll help me review my verses . . . ‘  Eddie agreed but said, ‘I’ll help you with the words, but I ain’t interested in being some kind of monk!’ I smiled and agreed with the plan. So we went over those verses month after month after month after month! Dear guy. He listened. He corrected me. He even encouraged me. But he never once responded. There was never a glimmer of interest on Eddie’s part. No way! Not until more than twenty-five years later.

My phone rang.

‘Charlie?’ (They called me Charlie back in the old days).

‘Yeah, who’s this?’

‘This is Eddie, your old bunk buddy on Okinawa.’

‘Eddie! How are ya?’

‘Uh, hey, listen man. I’ve been saved. My wife, too. Thanks for living for Christ!’ (I was speechless!)

‘You know, remember when you used to lay those verses on me?’

‘Yeah, I remember.’

‘Charlie, . . . it worked!’

. . . Back in 1958 I was sowing. The seeds were planted. In 1984 God brought in the sheaves. What would have happened had I submerged and given in to my doubts when God sent me overseas?  What if I had not trusted Him?

People are watching you. People are watching your marriage—even in the midst of deployment. Especially in the midst of deployment.

Are you giving them a true image of how a Christian handles challenges in life? how a Christian maintains purity? how a Christian grows in his/her faith?

Whether the seeds you sow are words or actions of righteousness, people know—and lives can be changed in the process. As the old saying goes, “You may be the only Bible that others will read.”  And it may be years before the seed that you sow is harvested. Don’t give up.

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor.”  — I Corinthians 3:6-8

Work Cited:

Swindoll, Charles R. Living on the Ragged Edge: Coming to Terms with Reality (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1985 & 2004), pp. 314-15.

Questions to Share:

1. In what ways is your marriage a good model for those around you?

2. Pray to live for Christ in such a way that others will see Him in you.

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