A devotional to help military families stay connected during deployments


Written by Al. Filed Under Marriage & Family

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united with his wife, and they become one.” — Genesis 2:24

“As the Scripture says, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and unite with his wife, and the two will become one.’” — Ephesians 5:31

These are familiar verses that pretty much sum up God’s design for marriage. God set the standard for the marriage relationship way back when Adam and Eve first got together, and then made sure that New Testament Christians also got the message about how it works when He had it repeated in the book of Ephesians. Basically, we become independent of our parents and become one entity together. I like how the King James version describes it–it says that we “cleave” to each other. The Hebrew word that “unite” or “cleave” is translated from is ודבק (daw-bak), which describes clinging to one another, joined like we have been glued together or following each other so closely that we might seem to be trying to overtake each other – I guess this is the Hebrew word for “tailgating.”

I like that picture—my wife and I are traveling through life as two people but united in our goals, in our destination. We don’t want to get separated along the way, so we “tailgate” each other—not to harass the other, but to make sure that no one or nothing gets between us. It’s not that we always have to do everything with each other, but we do want to keep a very careful watch on our relationship.

When I was in Afghanistan I served in Kabul. Those who have been to Afghanistan and in the city of Kabul itself will understand the need to tailgate in convoy. The city is bustling and you never know who is around you and what their intentions are. One day I escorted a government official who was a guest of the Afghan government. He rode in a government car and I followed to be there if something went wrong. The driver of the car knew Kabul like the back of his hand and did not wait for me—I had to glue myself to his tail lights for a hair-raising race through the city. At one point we went around a traffic circle near a market and were swamped by women in burkas, children, donkey carts, bread sellers and all manner of other people I couldn’t identify. I remember being hunched over the steering wheel, closing the gap between our vehicles so tightly that none of the pedestrians could squeeze between us. I was sweating.

Anyone who has driven in convoy through potentially dangerous places will understand the intensity that takes over as you focus on sticking to the vehicle in front. We do it to ensure that we do not allow anything to separate us because we know the risks greatly increase when we are isolated. This is how we should view our relationship with our spouses. We need to feel that intensity as we cling to each other knowing that it is dangerous to leave any gap between us.

Most of us need to sweat more about this rather than let work, friends, time-consuming habits, self-pride, or anything else that puts a wedge in our marriages get between us. It’s not that these things are necessarily bad (except for self-pride), but if they begin to become a higher priority than our spouse, then we are falling back and need to “tailgate” better.

Physical presence is very important and we should be with our spouse as much as we can, reinforcing that they are our priority. During these times we build the trust and emotional connection that sustain us when we are apart. Emotional “tailgating” is what glues us together when we are deployed and this is achieved through good communication. If we can’t physically be together, then we should be constantly reminding each other of our mutual commitment through letters, emails, phone calls, gifts and anything else that says, “I’m committed to sticking to you.”

The world needs more “tailgaters”!

Questions to Share:

1. What people/things are trying to squeeze between you and your spouse?

2. What can you both do to close the gap between you so that nothing can wedge itself in?

3. Ask the Holy Spirit to prompt you regularly to check that you are doing a good job of “tailgating.”

Chap’s Story

Written by Chaps. Filed Under Marriage & Family

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on the human tradition and the basic principles of this world, rather than Christ. — Colossians 2:8

Good Day Shipmates!

I’ve been married longer than many have been alive aboard this ship. At the risk of really dating myself, it’s been twenty-six years. My wife and I met in Chesterfield, near Richmond, as two idealistic “kids” with big plans. At 18 and 19 years old, we were convinced we were going to take the world by storm.

Life was simple back then. We dated six months and got married—bitten and blinded by the “love bug”; and on our way to RAF Lakenheath on E-1 pay. Our immaturity quickly reared its hideous head pushing our dreams and romanticism to the back burner. The only word fitting to describe the harsh erosion of our marriage was “train-wreck.”

I wounded my wife daily with razor-sharp words and emotional revenge. It’s no surprise she responded, firing back a volley of hurt and resentment. We quickly became isolated and discouraged . . . two married people living emotionally separate lives. To make matters worse, we had no “real” friends or people we could trust with such private matters. Secretly, we were ashamed how rapidly our marriage declined. I blamed her and she blamed me. Dreams of a healthy marriage were gone; our relationship had become toxic. In a few short months, the one I loved and wanted to spend the rest of my life with had become the adversary. We were consumed by pain, embittered and emotionally defeated.

Looking back, we can see that we believed four fundamental lies: 1) we were the only ones struggling like this; 2) we couldn’t tell anybody; 3) my spouse was the problem, not me; 4) we were beyond help. Each of these lies plays a deadly role in marriage relationships, shoving heads low in shame. The result of shame is demoralizing—shame leads to isolation while stealing you blind of a precious marriage commodity—hope . We tried to “fake it” and let others think that we were fine, but inside we were screaming, “Help!”

Although young, inexperienced and sinking in hopelessness, we were bright enough to know changes had to be made—immediately. Through our recovery process (more on that to come), I learned three important truths to share with you:

In a few days we will pull into port. Some of you have taken advantage of time away during this deployment to evaluate and reflect in a healthy way. Ever so quietly, in the privacy of your own heart, you’ve taken account of what’s truly important in life. You’ve thought long and hard about making much needed changes or adjustments. If truth be told, you’re not happy. Actually it’s worse than that—you secretly suffer from the disease of discontent; you suffer silently from discouragement and are emotionally tired; you seek refuge. Something’s gotta change!

Allow me to offer some thoughts:

First, change always starts from within; recovery begins with YOU. Firmly fix your gaze into the mirror of honesty; don’t quickly walk away and forget what you look like. Avoid the pull of believing the problem is “her” or “him.” It’s not—it’s you and it’s me. Start there.

Second . . . I’ve seen lots of people talk about change and even attempt change. Few find it. They’re genuine—they try harder, adjust jobs, substitute spouses, reorder finances, and make genuine attempts at change. However, true change only occurs exclusively within the framework of faith. You must seriously connect with God in repentance and surrender. Without God’s foundation, you’ll endure a long uphill battle of failed attempts. Swallow your pride—let Him produce a new you!

Third, change is a process. Don’t try to make change an event, like “whew . . . glad I got that over with. I’m different now!” Genuine change that lasts doesn’t work that way. It’s in the process you meet new people with similar goals, reach fresh objectives and connect with Creator-God in momentous, life-changing ways.

Fourth, find healthy people. You’ll only find these people in one place: CHURCH. They can be found . . . trust me. In forty-six years I’ve only found one place where people change and mature—in the church.

Fifth, stick to the plan. Resolve yourself to the process. Genuine change is hard work that only occurs within the context of relationship with God. Spend time in prayer and in His word, the Bible. That is where truth is found—in His Son, Jesus Christ.

There are better days ahead for you. I know.

Questions to Share:

1. Have you been taken captive by a deceptive philosophy that is built upon lies? How have those lies profoundly affected your thinking, words, attitudes, and behavior towards your spouse? How will you respond now?

2. Where do you subtly blame your spouse for the condition of your marriage, while minimizing your role? What will you do in response?

“Eloquent Silence”

Written by Linda. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” — 2 Corinthians 1:3,4

Sometimes . . . when someone has experienced a tragedy, it’s best to sit with them in silence. Not always, but sometimes. Alistair Begg, senior pastor of Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, calls that “Eloquent Silence.”

I remember one of our local chaplains telling us about a visit he made to a Navy family in the housing area whose baby had died. When he arrived, he sat with the couple on the front porch. Just sat with them. Later the couple told him that was the most helpful thing he could have done at the time. He acted according to Romans 12:15, “. . . mourn with those who mourn.”

The book of Job gives us insight into this matter of comforting others in tough times. When Job loses everything—children, possessions, health—there are three friends who come to check on him: “When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him. . . . When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words” (Job 2:11-13).

But then they started critiquing Job’s situation—analyzing why they believed God had allowed him to suffer so horribly. In Job 13:5 we read Job’s assessment of their “help”: “As for you, you smear me with lies. As physicians, you are worthless quacks. If only you could be silent! That’s the wisest thing you could do.”

Instead of offering their own advice, what if they had encouraged Job with God’s truth? What if they had prayed with Job, which they never did? We have no record of any of his friends praying with him, or helping to care for his wife during her time of confusion and grief.

Perhaps you have done comforting things for others who are suffering—you have spent time with them; you have wept with them; you have encouraged them with Scripture; you have prayed; you have provided meals/done laundry/offered transportation or finances. You have looked into your heart and thought how you would want to be comforted, or remembered how you have been graciously comforted by God and others during your own crisis times—and you offered real encouragement. Indeed, you have shown compassion: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).

In a strange twist at the end of the story of Job, the Lord tells his three friends to go to Job and seek forgiveness. Their words to Job, recorded at length in the book, had angered God: “So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:8).

Mike Mason, in his classic book on Job entitled The Gospel According to Job: An Honest Look at Pain and Doubt from the Life of One Who Lost Everything, writes a further explanation of this: “Perhaps more than any other Old Testament character, Job through his unmerited suffering becomes a reflection of Jesus, a Christ-figure. For it is not simply through sacrifice and prayer that Job’s friends gain their forgiveness, but rather through the entire mystery of Job’s suffering which, by sending its relentless roots deep into their hard hearts, has been invisibly breaking ground for the living God. Thus those who had considered Job ‘stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted’ in the end receive healing through his wounds. Healing for what? Healing for wounds less visible than Job’s, wounds they did not even know they had: the wounds of lovelessness. When the powerful come to the powerless for help, there the door to the Kingdom of God swings open.” (p. 434)

Through the years I have learned better than to say, “I understand what you’re going through”—when I really don’t. I know better than to tell my own story that’s similar, but not exactly. I now know that a gentle touch, a sympathizing tear, and an offer to help go a long ways. Not trying to fix the situation, or to “fix” the friends, but standing by them through the crisis.

To love like Christ loves . . . with grace . . . that is the goal.

Jesus says in John 15:12: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

Work Cited:

Mason, Mike, The Gospel According to Job: An Honest Look at Pain and Doubt from the Life of One Who Lost Everything (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994).

Questions to Share:

1. When you have experienced a crisis, how has someone helped you then that you truly appreciated?

2. Have you ever gone to encourage someone going through a hard time, and they ended up encouraging you? That is a remarkable grace which God gives to those going through extreme circumstances. Have you ever experienced that kind of grace?

3.  Have you had a time during this deployment when you sat with someone during their time of loss and comforted them?  Tell each other about that time.

The Proverbs 31 Husband

Written by Linda. Filed Under Marriage & Family

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. . . . .Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. — Proverbs 31:11-12, 28

I don’t know about you, but the “Proverbs 31 Wife” has been such a high (unreachable?) goal for me that I have often read this perfect description and have repeated verse one, “who can find?” Who can find such a woman, who provides exquisitely for her family, works tirelessly, gives generously, is wise, respected, industrious, competent, and praiseworthy—all in a lifetime of work?? Amazing! She must have been a military wife!

Less written about, or spoken of, seems to be this remarkable woman’s husband—the Proverbs 31 Husband. What do we know of him? If there is one thing I have learned about marriage it is that one spouse can greatly influence the other (for good or for bad). Just as it is true that “behind every good man is a good woman” I believe that “behind every good woman is a good man.” So how did this man support his wife, and vice versa? What do we know of their marriage?

I see at least three things in Proverbs 31 which speak of their marriage:

Trust—Verses 11 and 12 state, “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm all the days of her life.” (NIV) In the New Kings James Version, verse 11 reads, “The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain.” This couple operated in an atmosphere of trust. I doubt that this wife could have made purchases and investments, given to the poor or supervised a staff without the support of her husband—a trust based upon her dignified countenance and God-given wisdom. Mutual trust in a marriage is a beautiful thing, and her stability certainly speaks of her husband’s confidence in her abilities.

Teamwork—Verse 23 states, “Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.” This verse is followed by verse 31 which also mentions the influence of this couple in terms of their respect in the community, “Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” We know that the “city gate” in those days was where official business was conducted—much like our “city hall” or “courthouse” today. This husband was a respected leader, which would not have been true had not his home life been in order. And this is recognized in that final verse when we see that his wife is also respected in the community. They were a team—one’s reputation bringing honor to the other.

Tenderness—My favorite verses are 28 and 29, “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’” The Proverbs 31 Husband appreciated his wife, and verbally praised her. The affect of this treatment was that their children learned to respect their mother and emulate their father’s praise. My observation has been that if a husband insults his wife, their children will do the same. That makes for strife in a home, not harmony (among other things). But if he looks for ways to praise her and is not reticent in expressing his love and appreciation, the benefits can be found in loving relationships for generations to come.

The book of Proverbs begins with a call to wisdom. In Proverbs 9:10 we read, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” At the end of Proverbs, in 31:30, we see this having been lived out in a woman’s life: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” The fear of the LORD is the spiritual foundation on which this Proverbs 31 wife has built her home and her legacy. Because of her knowledge and understanding of the LORD’s faithful and sovereign ways, it says that she “has no fear for her household” and “can laugh at the days to come.” We do not know if her husband has that same wisdom—it is not written. But my thought is that this Proverbs 31 Husband knew and lived Deuteronomy 10:12— “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?”

And how does a married couple today, in the midst of military deployments, live out the call to trust, teamwork, and tenderness? I believe that relationships have not changed that much through the millennia, and that good communication (stay connected with what is going on in each other’s lives as much as possible), loving care (unselfish actions even when separated), and strong commitment (the “d” word should not even be in your vocabulary) to the marriage worked now and worked then. I believe that we should refer to Proverbs 31 as a picture of a husband and wife in marriage, and how it is true that “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” — Psalm 127:1

Questions to Share:

1. Can you see the benefit in praising each other? In what ways do you praise one another during the separation of deployments?

2. In what ways can you praise your spouse for the ways that you trust them and for the ways that you can see yourselves working together as a team for the good of your family.

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

Psalm 78, the second longest psalm next to Psalm 119, is considered an historical psalm, an instructive psalm, and a relevant psalm. This psalm is not just for the children of Israel. This psalm is for parents and the church today.

In referring to the Old Testament we find this verse in the New Testament: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4).

So what are we to learn from Psalm 78? What is the priority given to us? We are to raise our children to have hope, trust, and confidence in God.

How are we doing with that as the mandate? How are we—how are you—helping to raise your own children and the children of your church to become confident and hopeful in God?

From Psalm 78 we see two things that parents and the church owe their children:

1. We owe them the truth about God.

“. . .we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, His power, and the wonders He has done” (Psalm 78:4).

If our children are going to hope and trust in God we must be willing to talk about God in our homes and in our church—His preeminence and centrality. We must tell them that there is One ultimate, unchanging reality in life and that is God. He is the center, the creator, and the conductor of our lives.

We should not shy away from telling them that life is hard, but God is good. Life is unjust, but God is fair. And that God can be trusted.

We also need to tell them that Christ is the great heart-satisfier. Our children, and the children in our church, need to hear us say that our satisfaction is not bound up in the car we drive, the house we live in, the type of status we have in the community, or the clothes we wear. Our greatest satisfaction comes from contentment in Christ and Christ alone.

But this is important—remember that in order for us to talk about God—we must first walk with God. Our conduct should match our conversation. Our personal lives must match our public proclamation.

He is not just a god of Sunday but the God of everyday.

He is the God who exists in times of crisis and in times of joy.

He is the God who makes a difference in the way Mom and Dad live their lives.

He is the God who makes a difference in what we watch on television and what we talk about at the dinner table.

He is the God whom we get excited about and to whom we cry.

He is the God who is the source and goal of all our acts.

He is the God who leads and guards us during times of deployment and times at home.

Therefore—how do we accomplish our #1 task? At home, we walk with God and talk about God. At church, we talk about God in the presence of children. And even when times are difficult during wartime, we talk to our children about God’s faithfulness and God’s goodness.

When leads us to Psalm 78:5:

2.  We owe them faithfulness to God’s Word.

“He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which He commanded our forefathers to teach their children . . .” (Psalm 78:5)

The “law” here is the teaching of Scripture. And we are commanded to teach the testimony of God to our children.

In our homes and in our church, we will teach our children to have confidence in God when we teach them to have confidence in the Word of God, the Bible. It will not just be one book among many books—the Bible will be the central book. All other knowledge and other books will be read in the light of this book and will establish their worldview.

What the Bible says about sin—we will say about sin.

What the Bible says about mercy and grace—we will say about mercy and grace.

What the Bible says about marriage and singleness and sex—we will say about marriage and singleness and sex.

What the Bible says about forgiveness—we will say about forgiveness.

What the Bible says about right and wrong—we will say about right and wrong.

What the Bible says about love and compassion—we will say about love and compassion.

What will be the outcome of the application of these two principles?

  1. A legacy is created. From Psalm 78:6: “. . .so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.”
  2. A confidence is embraced. From Psalm 78:7: “Then they would put their trust in God. . . “
  3. An obedience is desired. Also from Psalm 78:7: “and would not forget His deeds but would keep His commands.”
  4. A spiritual catastrophe is avoided. From Psalm 78:8: “They would not be like their forefathers—a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to Him.”

Before you deploy, make sure your family is plugged into a local, Bible-believing and Bible-preaching church where love and grace are lived out. Make sure you have a routine established of regular Bible reading in your home—with a chance to reinforce that and encourage that even though geographically separated.

Why this partnership between the church and the home?

Parents need help in keeping a God-centered vision of parenting alive.

Parents need motivation to persevere year in and year out.

Parents need encouragement when everything seems to go wrong.

Parents need relief from time to time from the strain of parenting.

Parents need help in boiling down the Book of God into essential truths.

Parents need help in teaching subjects and skills where they lack expertise and time.

Parents need covenant community reinforcement of truth and moral standards.

Parents need solutions to touch problems raised by children.

Parents need camaraderie for the sharing of accumulated wisdom.

Parents need correction when others can see that something is wrong and they can’t.

Parents need worship.

Parents need prayer.

In the end, the church family will be:

The breeding ground for children who are confident in God.

The training school for teaching what is true and false in the world.

The boot camp for fitting young soldiers of Christ for the greatest combat of the world.

The fortress of protection in a world that has lost belief in absolute truth.

The hospital of healing for children and young people who have felt the pain and effects of sin.

The supply depot for replenishing the young troops who have been challenged each week.

The retreat center for spiritual renewal and rest.

The launching pad for future missionaries aimed at the unreached peoples of the world.

Let us bring up our children to hope in God, even when there is loneliness and turmoil in their lives.

Let us bring up our children to find their place in God’s plan.

Let us bring up our children who see everything in relation to God—even deployment.

Questions to Share:

1. What steps can you make to make sure that your family is grounded in their belief in God, a local church, and regular times of devotion before deployment?

2. What have you talked about this week in terms of God’s creation or God’s work in your lives?

3. Have you asked each other, “How can I pray for you this week?”

Fervent Prayers

Written by Linda. Filed Under Prayer, Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. — James 5:16b

Perhaps you desire to pray for our military members and their families, but just don’t know how. Or maybe you have prayed many times—daily, maybe even hourly, for years—and need encouragement to keep on praying. You are not alone.

I belong to a prayer group of parents who “gather in prayer” weekly by email. We pray for our sons & daughters, our friends, our neighbors—anyone with whom we are connected who is serving on the frontlines or home-front. Our leader is a prayer-warrior whose family has sent many members off to war, and knows the price. Because these prayers are so beautiful and Spirit-filled, I wanted to share a few of them with you—along with Scripture. May you be blessed in your time of prayer for our military and nation. There is nothing more powerful you can do.

As Oswald Chambers said, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.”

From 2 Thessalonians 2:16,17—May Our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

Gracious Heavenly Father,

We thank and Praise You, O Lord Our King, Our Savior, for hearing and answering our prayers, for blessing us with health, with encouragement, with hope as we rely on You. We pray for our soldiers downrange, all of them, to be encouraged, to see the fruits of their labor and to be strengthened for the work that lies ahead of them.  

We pray that they continue to be protected, that You would go before them each and every day, that they would stay healthy, body, soul and spirit. Those who are discouraged, O Lord, that they would get encouragement and be renewed in hope. May they be encouraged to practice kindness, and be forgiving. We pray for the leaders downrange, that they be dedicated to their soldiers, that they rely and call out to You, O Lord, and submit to Your leadership. We also pray for our national leadership, Lord, during these perilous times.

We Praise You, Father, and magnify Your Name. In the powerful and mighty name of Jesus, we pray, Amen.

From 2 Corinthians: 4:17,18 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  

Many of our soldiers we pray for are in their second, third, fourth or more deployments. As they persevere in their missions, let us continue to persevere in prayer for them and their families.

Gracious Heavenly Father,

Your Word is truth and You are truth, thank You Lord for Your Truth, that we fix our eyes on the eternal, remembering our home here is temporary when we know Your Son, Jesus Christ as Our Lord and Savior. You say our troubles are momentary, but sometimes they feel like forever, so in that light we lift up our loved ones serving our country and those heroes at home.

We pray that our soldiers would see their duty downrange as temporary. That You, O Lord, will help them, encourage them, speak to their hearts as they work day in and day out. Help them to depend on You and Your Truth. Fix their eyes on You, the author and perfecter of our faith. Increase our faith and trust in You, dear Lord. We want to glorify You in all we do, and we want to remember what we see is temporary. Help us all in our daily living. We pray for the families back home, that You, O Lord, would pour out Your grace and peace on them. We pray especially for the children that they would stay encouraged, full of hope and living everyday life in great expectation of seeing their mom or dad soon.

We love and honor You O Lord. In the powerful and mighty name of Jesus, we pray, Amen.

From Isaiah 40:28-31—Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Gracious and Mighty Heavenly Father,

We Praise You O Lord, our King. We give You glory, O Lord, for You are from everlasting to everlasting, You are Creator and we honor You and Praise You, once again, for who You are. We come before You this day to bring our loved ones to You once again.  

We pray that You, O King, will strengthen them for the work at hand, increase their strength as they call out to You, renew them in hope, and give them a strong conviction of their faith in You. Show them Your power in their everyday lives. We thank You, Lord, for protecting them each and every moment. Be with their families at home as they wait for their return. When they are tired, renew their strength: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. You are good, O Lord, and Your steadfast love endures forever. Thank You for Your love, Your unconditional love which sustains us all.

In Your Holy, powerful name, the name above all names, Jesus, we pray, Amen

Questions to Share:

1. Pray for others, but don’t forget to pray for yourself as you serve on the frontlines or home-front. Pray for perseverance, perspective, and continuing love for each other as a married couple serving today under trying circumstances.

2. Ask your spouse how you can pray for them today. Then pray for them right then—sharing your words by phone, text or email.

The Living Triangle

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

Editor’s Note:  Perhaps you have wondered if your Christian faith has had any impact on others during your military experience. If so, I hope you enjoy this story of one woman’s opportunity to see how God used her witness to invest in the life of another young military wife early in the years of their marriage and career.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

And the things that you have heard me say…entrust to reliable men who will be qualified to teach others. —2 Timothy 2:2 (NIV)

My husband, Leon, drew a triangle with Jesus at the apex of the triangle and wrote his name and mine on either side at the lower corners. While attending a weekend marriage seminar at the base chapel with other young military couples, we were asked to draw a simple diagram representing our marriages. Leon attempted to communicate how we tried to put Jesus first in our marriage by using this triangle.

The following Monday morning, a woman from the seminar phoned. Maureen shared how she loved the symbol of the triangle; she had never heard of making Jesus a part of marriage. My husband’s illustration had aroused her curiosity. She asked if we could get together. Delighted, I invited her over.

At my home, Maureen expressed an interest in learning more about Jesus. I asked her if she would like to meet weekly to discuss the Bible. She responded, “Yes!”

Her inquisitiveness continued to increase each time we met. After several months, she understood that she didn’t have a relationship with Jesus. Consequently, one morning, she knelt by her bed and prayed, “Jesus, please take control of my life and my marriage.” The next day she couldn’t wait to tell me about the prayer.

Over 22 years have passed since Maureen and I lived in California. And recently while visiting the East coast, we had the opportunity to stay with her family for several days. We hadn’t seen each other for years.

After being there for a few days, I observed the sweet spirit that permeated her home. Though her household overflowed with laughter and lively conversations, real peace and quiet punctuated it.

Maureen and her husband, Larry, shared how they had served in unique leadership roles in the military. During the tsunami in 2004, Larry was aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln and helped contribute to the American rescue efforts and humanitarian assistance in Southeast Asia.

On the home front, Maureen encouraged the countless wives whose husbands were deployed. Maureen had many opportunities to tell her story of how she started a relationship with Jesus Christ and how He met her deepest needs. She often bolstered these women as they struggled through difficult times of prolonged separation.

Early one morning, as I contemplated all I had witnessed in Maureen’s home, emotions welled up in me. God had faithfully worked in and through Maureen and Larry as they touched many people’s lives. Back in the desert soil of central California, He led Maureen into my life, and now He gave me a peek into the returns of that investment.

God seemed to whisper, “Pamela, how far are you willing to go with Me in sharing your story of hope with others?” While at Maureen’s house, He showed me that though I had only invested in one woman’s life back in California, Maureen had, in turn, imparted her life into the lives of many women.

At the start of our stay, I saw the purpose of our visit as only spending a few days with a cherished friend. But the visit had a far greater positive effect on me.

One morning during that visit, I overheard Larry’s voice outside on the patio quietly reading the Bible. Curious, I peeked out the window. Both he and Maureen were sitting close together, their heads slightly bent towards one another. I recalled Maureen’s first words to me in California, “I never heard of making Jesus a part of marriage.” My eyes filled with tears. I saw Leon’s illustration: the triangle.

Questions to Share:

  1. In your marriage, what is one specific commitment you will make to put Christ at the apex of the triangle?
  2. Identify your greatest fear or obstacle that prevents you from mentoring someone in your life. Who will you approach this week and take the first step toward developing a mentoring relationship?

Shine On

Written by Al. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“You are like light for the whole world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead it is put on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house.”Matthew 5:14,15

Jesus was talking to a gathering of followers and just after telling them that they were like salt, He also told them that they were like light.  They were salt because God used them to preserve those around them, but they were also light because through them, Jesus intended them to illuminate the truth of who God is.  What is interesting to me in these verses is that Jesus doesn’t suggest that a city in a valley or a light under a bowl has any less light, He just focuses on what to do with the light.  This is a call to do more with what we have.

My wife and I have only lived in military housing three times in my career.  We have mixed socially outside of military circles more than inside.  So, after many years, my wife doesn’t consider herself to be a “military” wife and she thought that she had little to offer those around her.  One day we were with a couple who had just heard that the husband was being called up to deploy to Afghanistan.  It obviously came as a shock to them and the wife was very emotional.  My wife started talking to her and suddenly discovered that she did have something to offer, having been through a similar experience.  Just by talking with her and relating to her circumstances, my wife was able to shine a little light on where God was in the situation.

I think sometimes we think that being a light is what pastors, or people who have been to seminary, or missionaries who take the Bible to far corners of the world are called to do.  The followers who were listening to Jesus had never seen a seminary, there were no churches to pastor and the Bible we have now was a long way off from being printed.  Jesus followers then, as they are now, were ordinary people and yet Jesus said that they were like light. They just needed to place themselves where they would shine.

By choosing to follow Jesus, we already have the light in us. Fortunately, God provides the light – if it was up to me it might on occasion go out altogether. The light might wane from time to time as we face challenges that filter it somewhat, but it doesn’t go away.  So what we need to do is to look for opportunities to place it where others can see it and can see who God is.

How does that look practically?  Well, first we need to ask God to help us deal with anything (sin) that might dim our light.  Then we need to ask God to give us opportunities to shine, be alert for those opportunities, and to act on them.  You may meet someone who is struggling with a deployment and they just need a listening ear – commit to have coffee with them.   You may meet someone who is making a bad choice in their marriage and needs some gentle but direct advice – be gentle, but honest in guiding them.  You may meet someone who just needs practical help like mowing a lawn or watching children for a while – sacrifice some of your time. The possibilities are endless, but each one shines a little light on who God is.

Now some of you reading this are already masters at serving others, so this is no big deal.  A lot of you, however, probably don’t take the next step, which is talking to people about why you are so nice and helpful.  That’s where you really get to shine a light on who God is.  You see, it’s easy for the people you help to write off your helpfulness as you just being nice.  In a sense, you are taking the credit if you let that go by without telling them that you are who you are because of what God has done for you.  That can be really scary, but it is the end goal of shining your light.  Take a deep breath next time someone says “thanks, that’s really nice” and say something like, “you know, I’m pretty selfish in myself, but God is helping me to think more of others”.  See what happens!  Of course you will need to know what to tell them if they ask how they can accept Jesus as their Savior because you never know how quickly the Holy Spirit will move!

Now here’s a thought– if we have a light each in our marriage, how much light can we shine if we work together as a couple?   Married couples in the military who follow Jesus have a unique opportunity to shine some light for other military couples, families and co-workers who are going through similar experiences as us.   I’d encourage you not to put that light in a valley or under a bowl, but look for opportunities to help those around you so that you can tell and show them who God is and what He has done for them.

Questions to share:

1.  Who can you think of right now who could do with some help?

2.  What can you do to help?

3.  When can you start?

4.  Pray about it, do it and see what God does with your light.

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 eight years, we have posted 828 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 218,000 times—from literally all over the world (186 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 seven 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.

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. — Proverbs 16:24

When I see an article on marriage, I automatically think “what does this say to a military marriage?” Ministry to military has wired me this way—thankfully.

So when I read the article on FamilyLife.com entitled “5 Biggest Little Ways to Improve Your Marriage” I naturally went to “what does this say to a military marriage?”

I might not have been as interested in this exercise if the article hadn’t been written by Shaunti Feldhahn, who is a respected researcher on marriage statistics and author of For Men Only, For Women Only, and The Good News About Marriage. I knew whatever Shaunti wrote was well-studied and well-written.

And given that improving your marriage during deployment takes special grace and intentionality, I went right to applying her points to those areas of challenge unique to military marriages. The goal? Helping military marriages to see that there are ways they can help their marriage by doing “little things” as often as possible.

Shaunti writes, “Clearly, a few small actions won’t fix deep relationship problems. But for most of us, a handful of simple day-to-day actions increase the likelihood that our spouse feels that we care deeply about them, instead of feeling that we don’t. There’s just enormous power in that!”

So using her research methods of surveying, Shaunti shares with us “The Fantastic Five for him” and “The Fantastic Five for her”. “When individuals were asked on the survey if a particular action made them happy, the affirmative response numbers were staggeringly high for five specific actions for each gender, even among the struggling couples. Close to 100 percent of all husbands and wives said these actions mattered, with between 65 and 90 percent of all husbands and wives saying these actions would deeply please them.”

Is this also true for military couples? I believe so.

Here are her “Fantastic Fives” and my additional suggestions for military couples:

The Fantastic Five for him

A wife will have a big impact on her husband’s happiness when she does the following:

1. Notices his effort and sincerely thanks him for it . . . This deeply pleases 72 percent of all men.

What about during deployment? You really can’t know what your husband specifically does each day and thank him for it, right? You can’t thank him for mowing the lawn in the heat or playing with the kids when tired from work, unless he is the spouse at home. But you can thank him for doing his part to defend our country, and being the kind of man that people depend on. What Shaunti Feldhahn is telling us is a little word of thanks goes a long way to marital satisfaction.

2. Says ‘You did a great job at __________.’ This deeply pleases 69 percent of all men.

Closely related to #1, this takes the verbal affirmation (by email or cell or text or Skype or letter) one step further from thanks to praise.

3. Mentions in front of others something he did well. This deeply pleases 72 percent of all men.

Can you mention to your friends how proud you are of your husband and the job he is doing—whether at home or while deployed? Certainly you can. And with the speed of modern communication, the likelihood of this praise getting back to him is high.

4. Shows that she desires him sexually and that he pleases her sexually. This deeply pleases 85 percent of all men.

This one is a little more difficult to do when separated geographically by deployment. But not impossible! Why not say, “I can’t wait to have you home and spend our own quality time together! I love and need you so much!” Be creative in your descriptions of your desires—you know what will please your husband to hear.

5. Makes it clear to him that he makes her happy . . . This deeply pleases 88 percent of all men.

We’re talking about little things here, and for a husband to hear long distance that he is still adored is vital! This tip got the highest point value of all five. Does being married to him make you happy? Remember some of your happiest moments together and remind him of those. Or state what he does to make you smile. On a difficult day, this could make all the difference.

The objective is to repeat these simple but powerful actions frequently. While not a cure-all, they are crucial to knowing and feeling that our spouse cares.

The Fantastic Five for her

On his side, a husband will have a big impact on his wife when he does the following:

1. Takes her hand. This deeply pleases 82 percent of all women.

We have addressed the power of holding hands on ExcellentorPraiseworthy.org before. Go to “Holding Hands“. Can you hold hands while deployed? Of course not . . . but you can take that special picture of you holding hands before deployment and put it where you will see it often. Or you can trace your hand and send it to each other with a message. Be creative—this little thing is very important (more than you think).

2. Leaves her a message by voice mail, e-mail, or text during the day to say he loves and is thinking about her. This deeply pleases 75 percent of all women.

This says that most women NEED to hear frequently that they are loved. Especially during dangerous times, I believe it’s extra-important to close every conversation with “I Love You.” You never know.

3. Puts his arm around her or lays his hand on her knee when they are sitting next to each other in public . . . This deeply pleases 76 percent of all women.

Again, this is not something little you can do during deployment, but you can communicate closeness with words. You can say, “If we were together right now, I would put my arm around you and hold you tight.” You need to say it, because she needs to hear it.

4. Tells her sincerely, “You are beautiful.” This deeply pleases 76 percent of all women.

I’m getting older, and the radiance of my youth is gone. But I would agree—I still like to hear that, to my husband, I am beautiful. Hearing him tell me that daily, or frequently, would be a sweet gift. Is it a little thing? Perhaps. Or maybe, to her, it’s a big thing!

5. Pulls himself out of a funk when he’s morose, grumpy, or upset about something, instead of withdrawing. (This doesn’t mean he doesn’t get angry or need space; it means he tries to pull himself out of it.) This deeply pleases 72 percent of all women.

Most wives would say that they sometimes tire of being a cheerleader to their husbands. Just once in a while it would be nice for him to draw strength from the Lord alone and impart that change-of-attitude to others instead of continuing in a slump. This point surprised me a bit, but I was in agreement.

In conclusion, knowing your spouse’s love language (5lovelanguages.com) only helps to zero in on the importance of these 5 little day-to-day helps. And Shaunti closes with, “Because as it turns out, believing that the other person cares is far more important to building a happy marriage than most of us every realized.” Understatement.

P.S. Reintegration is the Perfect time to start doing these “5 Biggest Little Ways to Improve Your Marriage”. Especially if a wall of communication has been building over time and distance . . . and needs to come down!!

Work Cited:

Shaunti Feldhahn, “5 Biggest Little Ways to Improve Your Marriage” on www.FamilyLife.com

Questions to Share

1. Which of the Fantastic Fives were a surprise to you?

2. Which of these tips do you already do—and which will you start doing today?

keep looking »