A devotional to help military families stay connected during deployments

Half Empty or Half Full?

Written by Linda. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“ . . . . so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.”  — 2 Corinthians 4:15

It seems to be some sort of personality test—people ask “are you the sort of person who sees a glass as half empty or half full?”  That apparently is the gauge of whether you are pessimistic and cynical, or optimistic and hopeful.

But this Thanksgiving gives us a chance (once again) to check and see what the Bible has to say about our attitude.  We never find the words “half empty” or “half full”—but to be “overflowing.”

We are to be overflowing with praise:

“May my lips overflow with praise, for You teach me Your decrees.”  —Psalm 119:171

We are to be overflowing with hope:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  —Romans 15:13

We are to be overflowing with love:

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” —I Thessalonians 3:12

We are to be overflowing with comfort:

“For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”  —2 Corinthians 1:5

We are to be overflowing with thanks:

“With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in His presence.  All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.”  —2 Corinthians 4:13-15

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”  —Colossians 2:6,7

Taking this one important step further, we know that one cannot be “overflowing” unless one is “filled.”  So as Christians, what are we to be “filled” with?

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.  Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  —Ephesians 5:15-20

Being filled with the Holy Spirit, the gift from the Father at salvation, causes our hearts to be filled to overflowing with gratitude this Thanksgiving “for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Questions to Share:

  1. Deployment could cause our hearts to be hardened, but the Bible instructs us to be thankful.  Name two things for which you are grateful this year.
  2. Pray to have a heart of thankfulness for your spouse and for your circumstances, even during this time of geographic separation.
  3. If you want to know more about salvation through Jesus Christ, and being filled with the Holy Spirit, go to www.godlovestheworld.com and www.tenbasicsteps.org.

Pilgrims Deployed

Written by Linda. Filed Under Lessons from History

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD . . . – Psalm 33:12

Each year we celebrate Thanksgiving in the tradition of the Plymouth colony’s harvest at the end of their first year in the New World, 1621. Did these early settlers have cause to thank an Almighty God for their condition? Consider the following facts:

The Pilgrims did not come to America to seek religious freedom.

As a group, they had sought and found asylum in Holland from religious persecution more than twelve years earlier. They, like the Puritans, believed that the Church of England was corrupt. Unlike the Puritans who sought to “purify” the Church from within, these “Separatists” believed the Church was beyond purification. The Church could only be under the headship of Jesus Christ. Therefore, no one, not even the Queen of England could claim title as “Head of the Church.” Because of their convictions these believers were hounded unmercifully. The bishops of the Church of England feared these believers who “spoke enthusiastically of experiencing an encounter with Jesus Christ” might create little clusters of “fanatics” with no semblance of order and no conformity! Under the rule of James I and Charles I, they were literally driven underground and fled to Holland. It should be noted that James I was the sponsor of the King James Version of the Bible, first published in 1611.

Strong conviction led 102 men, women and children to brave sixty-six days at sea confined to an area one-half the size of a volleyball court.

Asdescribed by author and historian Peter Marshall, among the several reasons for their leaving was the fact that they “cherished a ‘great hope and inward zeal’ of at least playing a part, if only as a stepping stone for others, in carrying the Light of Christ to remote parts of the world.” They were taking Christ’s words in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) to heart and believed that America was the site God had chosen for them. Were they right?

How committed were they?

The captain and part owner of the Mayflower, Christopher Jones, was hired to take them to just south of the Hudson River—the northernmost boundary of the Virginia Charter. In turn of funding their voyage, they would become indentured servants to English investors who expected 100% return on their investment in the New World. The love and worship of money, it turns out, is not a characteristic of only the 21st century.

They landed 100 miles north of their intended site.

Despite being tossed about by severe storms, they landed less than 100 miles north of their intended site on the Hudson. The area was Cape Cod. All attempts to move south, approximately a five day journey, were frustrated by headwinds, shoals, riptides, and the approach of winter. After much prayer, they decided to remain at the northern end of the Cape. However, this placed them outside the jurisdiction of the Virginia Company’s charter. They were ungoverned—accountable to no one, and totally unsupported. The fear of mutiny led them to quickly draft the Mayflower Compact. This document, founded on the ancient Hebrew tradition that all men are equal in the sight of God, was the “first time in recorded history that free and equal men had voluntarily covenanted together to create their own new civil government.” The Compact is two short paragraphs—only 200 words long.

Was this the landing site God intended for them? Consider the following:

The site located by a scouting party consisted of over twenty acres of cleared land ready to plant but obviously uninhabited for several years. The area also had four nearby streams, excellent drainage, a beach and protected harbor, in addition to an open field of fire for defense with muskets and cannons.

The first two Indians they encountered spoke fluent English!

Samoset was the adventurous exploring chief of the Algonquin tribe of Maine. He had been exploring the area for eight months when he strolled into their camp in the spring of 1621. Squanto is not a legend—he was the sole remaining Patuxet Indian. Squanto (Tisquantum was his real name) had been captured and taken to England for nine years and returned to America before being recaptured and sold into slavery in North Africa. He was subsequently rescued by friars who introduced him to the Gospel.

The First Thanksgiving

Governor Bradford declared a day of Thanksgiving in October of 1621. The celebration of safety, blessing, and a prosperous harvest, accompanied by over ninety Indian guests, ended up lasting more than three days.

Thus was born the tradition of the first Thanksgiving in America. A God-fearing people who had placed their very existence in a hostile new land solely in His hands responded with prayer, worship, love, and gratitude for His provisions; then shared it with their pagan neighbors with whom they were living in peace. Are we expected to do any less?

America’s heritage is a Christian heritage!

Work Cited:

The majority of this information and all quotes are taken from The Light and the Glory by Peter Marshall.

Questions to Share:

1. What were you taught about the history of Thanksgiving in America? Were there any details in this writing which reminded you of what you were taught?

2. What are you thankful for this year? Has your time of geographic separation from loved ones during deployment been a time during which you could reflect on your life?

“Wax On, Wax Off”

Written by Linda. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” — Hebrews 12:11

The story of Joseph in the Old Testament is one of jealousy and betrayal—and the goodness and sovereignty of God. At age seventeen, Joseph’s brothers sell him to Midianite merchants who take him to Egypt where he is then sold to Potiphar, one of Pharoah’s officials. Because of a false accusation by Potiphar’s wife, Joseph is put into prison. In Genesis 39:20b-22 Scripture records, “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; He showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there.”

Through the providence of God, Pharaoh releases Joseph from prison after many years of confinement and puts him in charge of the whole land of Egypt. (This is just a brief summary of a great story–please read it!) Because of Joseph’s Spirit-led wisdom and discernment, at age thirty he is able to lead Egypt to prepare during times of abundant harvest for a coming time of famine. This widespread famine eventually forces Joseph’s brothers to travel from Canaan in order to buy food—not realizing that the high-ranking official they meet in Egypt is their brother Joseph, whom they had sold into slavery. Perhaps you know how the story unfolds. . . .with the Israelites moving to Egypt and eventually returning to their promised land in the book of Exodus, led by Moses.

What did Joseph learn during his time in prison as someone unjustly accused? What must have seemed to me like frustration and loneliness really was a school for patience, leadership skills, business principles, perspective, peace, mercy, endurance, perseverance, self-control, and forgiveness. In other words, character. At the end of Genesis, we hear Joseph speak to his brothers the great words, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20) What grace!

I recently watched the 1980s movie “The Karate Kid” and was impressed by the period of training that the aspiring young man, Daniel, went through with Mr. Miyagi. If you have seen the movie, you know that Mr. Miyagi promises to teach Daniel karate, and in turn Daniel promises to do what Mr. Miyagi says—no questions. Then begins a strenuous time for Daniel of polishing Mr. Miyagi’s cars (“wax on, wax off”), sanding his deck flooring (“sand the floor”), painting the fenced-in perimeter of his yard (“up. . . down”) and painting his house (“side to side”). What seems to Daniel to be just manual labor is really a time of training his muscles for the elements of karate—but he does not see it as that. In one particular scene, Daniel erupts in anger accusing Mr. Miyagi of just getting his property improved through his hard work. Mr. Miyagi immediately puts him through the first paces of “putting it all together”—revealing to Daniel that he has been learning the hand movements of karate all along, without realizing it. Fast forward to the end of the movie (after much more training) and Daniel wins the karate tournament, earning the respect of those who had originally tried to harm him.

What is God training you for during this deployment? Does it feel like loneliness and frustration? Does it feel like so much “wax on, wax off”(mission preparations?). . . . . “sand the floor” (take care of the kids?). . . . “up, down” (pay the bills?). . . . “side to side” (month after month?). . . .and in the midst of all of that you cannot see what God is doing? Is it only when it is over that you can look back and see how God is putting it all together—and you have learned patience, grace, wisdom, discernment, perspective, endurance, self-control, perhaps forgiveness . . . in other words, character?

And is it possible to have hope for the future because of the opportunity you’ve been given to grow in character—if you can understand and have “eyes to see”? Paul writes in Romans 5:3-5: “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”

I heard an Air Force fighter pilot once speak on the similarities between military training and spiritual training. His three points were: 1) they both require discipline and focus; 2) they both require repetition and practice; 3) they both are a “race” and not a “sprint.”

What this military pilot knew, what Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel, and what Joseph learned in prison was that focus. . . that faith-perspective which gives us hope in the midst of the “training” God is putting us through. . . is key to endurance. The great warrior-king David wrote in Psalm 141, “My eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign LORD.” May we all have thankful eyes to see what God is doing in our lives, even now. What looks like months of painful testing during deployment may actually bring a harvest of righteousness if we allow ourselves to be “trained by it.”

Questions to share:

1. During this deployment, can you see God working in you to develop new character traits?

2. What every-day training is He using to cause you to endure?

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.—2 Timothy 2:20,21

Whenever our pastor prays for church members heading out on travel—or off to college—or deployment—he prays for the Lord to keep them “close and clean.”

What does that mean? Close and clean?

Clearly our pastor’s prayer is not just for those venturing away from our church on assignment—it is for all of us.

Desiring purity—maintaining holiness—with our hearts focused on God’s character and His presence in our lives, is certainly our goal as Christians. In this current culture of moral decline, praying for the Lord to keep us close to Him, and clean in our thoughts and actions, is certainly a testimony to our relationship with Jesus Christ.

These Scriptures point us to seek closeness with our Lord, and to desire His cleansing, based on guarding our thoughts and actions—and keeping short accounts by confession of our sins:

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your word. I seek You with all my heart; do not let me stray from Your commands. I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:9-11).

“Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin . . . Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51: 2, 10).

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

“Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8).

One of my favorite lessons on purity and holiness is from an old Virginia pastor named G. D. Watson (1845-1924), who came to salvation as a Confederate soldier. The writing is entitled, “Others may, but you cannot.” In it his admonition is clear—being close to God and clean in thoughts and actions requires—demands–a humility and obedience to the Holy Spirit which will separate us from others—even other Christians.

“If God has called you to be truly like Jesus in all your spirit, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility. He will put on you such demands of obedience that you will not be allowed to follow other people or measure yourself by other Christians. At times, He will let other people do things which He will not let you do.

Other Christians who seem to be very religious and useful may push themselves, pull wires, and work schemes to carry out their plans, but you cannot. If you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.

Others may boast of themselves, their work, their successes, their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing. If you begin to do so, He will lead you into a deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

Others may be allowed to succeed in making great sums of money, or may have a legacy left to them, or may have luxuries, but God may supply you only on a day-to-day basis, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence on Him and His unseen treasury.

The Lord may let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hidden in obscurity because He wants to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory which can only be produced in the shade.

God may let others be great, but keep you small. He will let others do a work for Him and get the credit, but He may make you work and toil without knowing how much you are doing. Then, to make your work still more precious, He will let others get the credit for the work which you have done; this to teach you the message of the Cross, humility, and something of the value of being cloaked with His nature.

The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch on you, and with a jealous love rebuke you for careless words and feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem distressed over.

So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign and has a right to do as He pleases with His own, and that He may not explain to you a thousand things which may puzzle your reason in His dealings with you. But if you absolutely give yourself to be His child, He will wrap you up in a jealous love and let other people say and do many things that you cannot.

Settle it forever; you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit. He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue or chaining your hand or closing your eyes in ways that He does not seem to use with others. However, know this great secret of the Kingdom: When you are so completely possessed with the Living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of heaven, the high calling of God.”

So whether you are traveling today to faraway lands, or taking care of the home front, calling on God to keep you close and clean—and doing your part to stay close and clean—is part of your Christian walk. The Apostle Paul goes on to complete the verses, which are at the beginning of this posting, to write, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful” (2 Timothy 2:22-24).

May the Lord watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore (Psalm 121:8) and may He keep you close and clean as you continue to seek Him and serve Him. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions to Share:

1. When you are away from your established routines and guideposts, what temptations do you experience which cause you to forget the closeness of God or the peace of righteous living?

2. Pray for each other, whether by cell/text/email/Skype, to desire to maintain the self-control it takes to live rightly.

When Someone Asks How They Can Pray for You

Written by Jocelyn. Filed Under Prayer

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. — Colossians 4:2

Because of their experience in ministry, I asked Chaplain Scott Koeman to give me a list of specific things we can pray for our active-duty military loved ones. The resulting blog post, “How to Pray for Your Military Man” was posted on Excellent or Praiseworthy on November 6th. Prayer is powerful, and I believe it is even more effective when we are specific in what we ask for.

So recently, I asked Chaplain Koeman’s wife Benita, founder of OperationWeAreHere.com, to provide me with a similar list of prayer requests that would apply to the spouse of a deployed military member. If you are that spouse of a deployed husband, you may not think you need to read this list of prayer requests yourself– but wait! Next time someone asks you how they can pray for you, share this list with them; it’s quick and easy. Better yet, print out both lists of prayer requests (his and hers, so to speak) and see if your church will create an insert to put in the bulletin so the congregation knows how to support you both in prayer.

Without further ado, here’s Benita’s list of prayer requests for the heroes at home:

Jocelyn Green is an award-winning freelance writer and author of Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives and Faith Deployed . . . Again. Today’s posting is from her blogwww.FaithDeployed.com. She is also the co-author of Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan, and The Five Love Languages: Military Edition. Jocelyn and her husband Rob live with their two children in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Questions to Share:

1. There are twelve prayer points in the chaplain’s wife’s list. Pick one a day to pray for someone experiencing deployment.

2. Share with your husband how you are praying for him. Monday we will post prayers for wives from Benita Koeman.

Veterans Day Prayer

Written by Linda. Filed Under Prayer, Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. — John 15:13

Chuck Swindoll, one of our favorite preachers, loves to tell stories of when he was a Marine on active duty. These stories offer multiple illustrations for his sermons. So it was not a surprise that this Veterans Day he posted a special prayer on his ministry website—and also gave his thanks to all of you who serve so faithfully. We want to share his prayer with you today, in honor of your sacrificial service to our dear country:

Thank You, Father, for Your good hand upon our nation during times when we stood strong. And even when we have been weak and lacked the moral fiber that makes a nation great, You have still poured out Your protection and grace upon us. Thank You for Your favor.

How we thank You for those who have defended the freedom of our country—those who have spent their years believing in a cause that transcended their own safety . . . who surrendered the pleasure and comfort of home and family . . . who fought fierce and lengthy battles, carrying heavy weapons . . . and who stood firm in dark and difficult times when the conflict was dangerous and the enemy was near.

We thank You also for those who serve today, some of them in places where war has come up close and personal. Watch over them. Take care of them. We pray for their safe return. Comfort their family and loved ones whose arms ache for them. We also intercede for those who make difficult decisions by commanding our troops. We pray You would give them wisdom and integrity, keep them safe, use their strategy and intelligence for the betterment of this country and for the greater good of generations to come.

Our Father, we also acknowledge that You are a God of grace who has watched over us at all times. When we began as a country, You were there. When we fought amongst ourselves in that bloody Civil War, You were there. When we defended ourselves from enemies on both sides, You were there. You have been our Shepherd, and because of that, we lacked nothing. Thank You for being our shield and our defender, for the enduring promise of Your presence.

We commit to You the future of our land. We ask You to guide us and help us serve You faithfully. We pray that Your name will be honored in our future even more than in our past. May Your righteousness and glory continue to be exalted in this great nation.

All of this we ask in the name of Christ, our Savior. Amen.

And we say, “Thank you, Pastor Swindoll, for your great service to our country and to our Lord. May the Lord allow you to continue to serve well, both at your church in Frisco, Texas, and around the world through your writings and radio. In Jesus’ strong name. Amen.”

Work Cited:

Listen to Chuck Swindoll’s Veterans Day Prayer on www.Insight.org.
Learn more about Chuck Swindoll’s experience in the Marine Corps in the article, My Determined Purpose.

Questions to Share:

1. Who also served in the military in your family that you can remember in prayer today?

2. Read this prayer out loud to each other, if possible, or to someone with whom you serve.

How to Pray for Your Military Man

Written by Jocelyn. Filed Under Prayer

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. — Colossians 4:2

The Bible tells us that “The prayer of a righteous man [or woman] is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). So what are you praying for? Most, if not all of us, pray for our husbands. But do you know exactly how to pray for your military man’s unique needs? I asked Chaplain Scott Koeman, when in Afghanistan, for some specific things we can be praying for. Here is the insightful list he shared with me:

Chaplain Koeman is married to Benita Koeman, founder of OperationWeAreHere.com, a clearinghouse of resources for the military community.

Jocelyn Green is an award-winning freelance writer and author of Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives and Faith Deployed . . . Again. Today’s posting is from her blog www.FaithDeployed.com. She is also the co-author of Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan, and The Five Love Languages: Military Edition. Jocelyn and her husband Rob live with their two children in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Questions to Share:

1. There are nine prayer points in the Chaplain’s list. Pick one a day to pray while he is deployed.

2. Share with your husband how you are praying for him. Monday we will post prayers for wives from Benita Koeman.

 

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Editor’s Note: While not every deployed couple has children at home, the themes and applications in this writing are common in long-distance relationships.

Behold, children are a gift of the LORD. . . . Psalm 127:3

“I’m not there! What can I do about it?” If you’ve ever heard those words from a deployed service member, you know the frustration they offer up to the one at home having to deal with the troubling situation. If the situation regards the rearing of children, then the frustration can reach epic proportions. None of us wants that, right? So here are some thoughts to help—they’re so simple we call them the “ABCs” of long-distance parenting.

“A” is for “Ask Good Questions!” I’ve heard the excuse, “I don’t know what questions to ask!” Having a good parenting talk with your spouse at home while you are deployed means starting simple . . . . something like “How are you doing today?” or “What happened with the children today?” Bible teacher, John MacArthur, says in his essay, on “Peter: A Lesson in Leadership,”

“Now what is the raw material looked for in a leader? First of all, does he ask questions? . . . . People who don’t ask questions don’t wind up as leaders because they’re not concerned about problems and solutions. If you want to find a leader, look for somebody who asks questions.”

Are you concerned about what is happening at home? Ask your spouse questions! Please . . . please . . . please don’t just “assume” that things are such-and-such, ASK! Parents are leaders in their homes—they lead their children in every aspect of life—so show leadership by asking how they are doing! And don’t forget those all-important questions of your spouse at home—“What can I do to help you?” and “How can I pray for you?”

“B” is for “Be Prepared.” There are things which you and your spouse can talk about ahead of time, anticipate and plan for so that the deployment can go more smoothly. In regards to the children, talk about which school activities you want them to participate in; talk about trips to take; talk about their developing friendships—which to promote and which to discourage; talk about their educational progress and what each child needs help with; talk about their spiritual growth and how you each can be intentional about taking steady steps of growth during deployment; talk about how you want to be included in holidays, even though you’re far away; talk about the importance of keeping a regular schedule—a must for children experiencing deployment; talk about finances which are going to be spent on the children while you’re gone—like orthodontics, or summer camp; talk about what service project the kids can do while you are apart—something to take the focus off themselves and onto the needs of others; talk about consistency in discipline—making sure that the kids know who is the boss; talk about your commitment to support each other in doing what is best for the children.

Be sure you have this talk about your parenting concerns before the deployment. Don’t leave home without it! (But even if deployed, it’s never too late!)

“C” is for “Communicate with the Children.” Communicating with your spouse is great, but don’t forget to communicate with your children—regularly, if possible. Send a card, send an email, send a gift, send anything. I remember talking with a soldier who said that he tried to send his kids something every week, even if it was something really simple like a note saying, “Daddy loves you!” One week he didn’t know what to send, so he took the little wooden spoon that came with his cup of ice cream, wrote “Daddy misses you” and mailed it in a small envelope. Get creative—kids just want to know that they’re loved and missed. Let them know that they’re part of the mission, too—that you couldn’t do what you are doing without their help at home. Encourage them in their schooling, their chores at home, their behavior . . . . and if you have chosen a Scripture verse to memorize together while you’re away, encourage them with that.

Another good reminder is to answer an emotion with an emotion . . . . children (and adults) need that. If your child says, “I miss you so much” make sure you say “I miss you so much, too—you are so special to me.” Going from an emotional statement to an intellectual statement without that emotional connection does not make for good communication at the “heart” level. So if your child says, “I miss you so much,” try not to minimize their feelings with a response like “You’ll be okay—just stay busy.” There will be time for that encouragement, but start by validating their feelings.

Teenagers especially need to hear from their deployed parents—to know that they’re appreciated and prayed for. Stay up-to-date with their social and school concerns so that you can ask good questions. There’s that letter “A” again—asking good questions! And make sure you listen for the answers . . . . which will then generate more questions. Much like a tennis game where one lobs the ball back and forth, good communication can be a series of good questions and answers which lead to more good questions.

We’ve heard it said that writing letters to children, especially teenagers, during deployment—hand-written letters that they can take out from time-to-time and think over—is a wonderful way to stay in touch. And the best way to stay in touch with your older children is to ask “How can I pray for you?” If you have the chance to Skype, or talk on the cell phone, pray with them on the phone. Encourage them to pray out loud, first by picking out two things to be grateful for and one thing they are concerned about—that’s a great place to start.

Those are the “ABCs” of long-distance parenting (will differ with those at sea—which really requires prior planning in parenting!) . . . but there’s also a “D” for “Don’t be passive!” Just because you are away does not mean that you have given up your responsibility as a parent. There is work to be done, whether by maintaining good communication with your spouse or with your children, in whatever way you possibly can knowing that the demands of war differ from person to person. Seizing, not neglecting, the opportunity to prepare your family, to pray for your family, and to lead your family throughout this deployment will yield blessings which you cannot even imagine right now—but will be evident in the security and peace within your family in years to come.

Work cited:

Dr. John MacArthur’s sermon on “Peter: A Lesson in Leadership” is found on his ministry website http://www.gty.org/Resources/Print/Sermons/2271

Questions to Share:

1. In what ways did you prepare your family for this deployment?

2. Take this opportunity to discuss with your spouse any unmet parenting needs which you feel should be addressed.

“The Submariner Treatment”

Written by Linda. Filed Under Marriage & Family

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?Where can I flee from Your presence?If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast. — Psalm 139:7-10

I have a great dentist. Through the years he has taken care of my teeth by preventing problems and treating problems. Lately he has even put up with some of my whining about aging, expensive crowns, and gum erosion . . .

Just the other day, when I was in for a “routine cleaning” (thank goodness there wasn’t anything else wrong!), I told him that the next time I come in I will need a thorough exam because I might be heading to a remote location for a while—and I don’t want any surprises while I am away. His response was, “Oh, so you want The Submariner Treatment!”

I guess I had forgotten that “once upon a time” he had been a Navy dentist. It’s been probably twenty years since he served our nation in that capacity—but obviously there are some things he hasn’t forgotten. He explained to me that when our submariners are preparing to go underway, they are given an extensive dental screening to identify and treat any potential problems which might be revealed during that period of deployment. He said that the dentists might go so far as to remove a sailor’s wisdom teeth—since the Navy just can’t afford for anything to go wrong while at sea when no further help or treatment is available. My comment was, “That’s radical!” He agreed, but emphasized that this is serious business. I can only imagine . .

When I left his office, I thought about what he had said. And my mind went one step further—what if we gave our marriages “The Submariner Treatment” before deployment?What if that philosophy of identifying and eliminating potential risks was seen as beneficial for couples who are about to be separated geographically for an extended period of time—in serious circumstances? What would that look like . . . ?

What if we identified some “issues” that had not been dealt with in our marriage, before they got worse because of the stress of separation?

What if we extended forgiveness—verbally—and meant it?

What if we sought help for conflict resolution, so that we would be prepared for potential misunderstandings?

What if we read a book on good communication skills in marriage, and discussed it?

What if we got our paperwork in order—wills, powers of attorney, insurance, bills—and talked about what would happen if “the worst” occurred?

What if we were open to something radical—like eliminating a friendship which was a negative influence?

What if we examined our lives for sinful addictions, and asked for forgiveness?

What if we decided, ahead of time, what would be the best way for us to do R&R (away or at home—in-laws or no in-laws)?

What if we talked about our expectations and fears?

What if we made sure that the one at home was “plugged in” to a good support network?

What if we attended a marriage conference together—kind of a marital “tune-up”?

What if we made sure that the maintenance on our car and house (and computer?) were up-to-date?

What if we got some counseling for dealing with “baggage” from former relationships?

What if we invited a couple with deployment experience over for dinner so that we could discuss some of the unexpected challenges?

What if we discussed a plan for emergencies?

What if we learned to pray together?

What if we renewed our commitment to love each other sacrificially?

I’m sure when my dentist mentioned “The Submariner Treatment” he had no idea I would take that colloquialism (which he said may not even be used these days) into the realm of preparing a marriage for deployment challenges.

I guess my thought would be “why not?” If the Navy (which has been doing deployments forever) knows how to prepare their sailors for extended time underwater, then why can’t we be equally smart about preparing the most important human relationship we have for time apart during wartime? Makes sense to me!

But what about if you are already deployed? What if problems were not addressed before you left, and now they’re even worse? Or preparations were not in place and now your spouse is scrambling to recover?

Unlike the situation of a submariner underway with a toothache and no help, God is always present and available—there is no problem too large or too small for His care. He is everywhere and knows everything.

It is never too late for His treatment of forgiveness and redemption. And Jesus Christ already paid the bill. . . .

Questions to Share:

1. Do you think that deployment causes problems or reveals problems?

2. What can you do, as a couple, to prepare for the time apart—in hopes of avoiding problems?Look through the list above and see what you can do to get ready. . . .

The Gaping Hole in the Door

Written by C.M.. Filed Under Marriage & Family

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. — Colossians 3:12-15

We know a military couple, strong believers, with small children who are a family with multiple deployments under their “resiliency” belt. Let me call them Jason and Melinda. After the second deployment, Jason had the opportunity to go to another job he had had his eyes on. So they PCS’ed within weeks of his redeployment.

Coming from living overseas to stateside proved a challenge with small children, but they considered themselves doing pretty well under the stress. Jason went on ahead and moved them into their new quarters while Melinda visited her mom and dad with the kids. You would think that would work out well . . .but tiredness, more separation, and cranky children all added up for an explosion of emotions a few days after Melinda rejoined Jason in their new (well, not so new and not so nice) quarters. A complaint here, a criticism there, a little nagging, physical exhaustion, not to mention the regular reintegration issues that crop up and . . . Wham!!—Jason made a fist and punched their bedroom door leaving a gaping hole . . .

It was quiet between them for a few days, and then icy stares, and perfunctory answers to the basics. Well, eventually they responded to one another, asked forgiveness of one another, and life returned to a “new” normal. But the wall of isolation remained. Resentment, lack of trust, and hurt feelings would not go away. Jason withdrew, and Melinda fumed or shed tears of frustration.

As a last resort, Jason called us. He told my husband the story and the impasse in which they seemed to be. They wanted to feel love for one another, but they didn’t know what to do to spur that feeling along. We suggested to them something which has helped us through similar times in our marriage—we asked them to practice “three A’s” for ten days to see what happened. We told Jason, “For ten days, only offer one or more statements of Appreciation to each other, Affirm one another daily, and offer a sign of Affection (nonsexual touching) and no other statements beside common courtesy. No revisiting arguments or the same old stuff . . . just for ten days.” Jason asked, “Well, how do you do that?” My husband suggested he try these things: “appreciate your wife for caring for your children tirelessly, say thank you for the meals she prepares each day, touch her on the shoulder when you say ‘thank you’ . . . And Jason, it might as well start with you . . . one of you has to submit to the Lord first.”  We said we would pray for them daily as they allowed the Holy Spirit to work as they obeyed God’s Word to honor and submit one to another.

Just by those three expressions of love (the “three A’s”), they were able to re-establish communication, soften their words, offer true forgiveness to each other and ask forgiveness of God . . . (an important step in bringing back trust and honor to one another, and more importantly honoring God).

A few months later, we were visiting them in their home and noticed a framed picture on their bedroom door with a beautiful tied ribbon holding it in the center of the door. It was a picture frame with the following inscription in calligraphy: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” I Corinthians 13:4-8

It covered up the gaping hole in the door.

Let’s Pray: “Heavenly Father, Thank you Lord for your Word, that two-edged sword that pierces to the heart of the matter quickly. Show me, Lord, where I have fallen short. Help me to forgive quickly and ask for forgiveness where needed.”

Questions to Share:

1. What resentments are keeping you from having the marriage God intends?

2. Do you realize that your spouse is a gift from God? How can you practice the 3 A’s: Appreciation, Affirmation, Affection . . . even if separated by deployment?

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