A devotional to help military families stay connected during deployments

“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?

PTSD Prayers of King David

Written by Linda. Filed Under Lessons from History, Prayer

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak. . . . But I trust in You, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. Let Your face shine on Your servant; save me in Your unfailing love. — Psalm 31:9,10,14-16

The Combat Trauma Healing Manual: Christ-centered Solutions for Combat Trauma is filled with truth that helps and heals. My copy of this life-valuable book has underlines, highlights, stars and check marks in the margins, brackets, and notes—page after page. But one of my favorite parts is in the back—in the Appendix. The appendices are filled with important information—from how to know God personally to symptoms of PTSD to Scripture for use in spiritual warfare. Then there is Appendix D, with the interesting title of “Prayer Life of a PTSD Victor: King David.”

There are three sections of prayers in this six page appendix—“Prayers of a Wounded Warrior,” “Promises to a Wounded Warrior,” and “Praises from a Wounded Warrior.” I will give a sample of each, but first we must ask the question “Who was King David?” and “Why do we believe he was a PTSD sufferer?”

The Bible refers to King David as “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22) because of David’s tremendous obedience and love for the LORD as voiced in the book of Psalms. David grew up tending his father’s sheep in the hills around Bethlehem before being anointed by the prophet Samuel (I Samuel 16) to succeed Saul, Israel’s first king. We then read the great Old Testament story of David and Goliath (I Samuel 17), and witness years of running from the murderous King Saul.  The story continues with David’s eventual ascension to the throne, his leadership of Israel in numerous military victories, and then his disastrous adultery with Bathsheba followed by the painful consequences of that sinful act.

What would lead the author of The Combat Trauma Healing Manual to believe that King David was victorious in his battle with PTSD? The author, Rev. Chris Adsit, writes: “Because David recognized that God was his Healer, his only hope of escape from his distress. When you read many of David’s Psalms, you are reading the writings of a man in process. He fought with depression, guilt, fear, anger, despair—probably many of the same emotions you (the reader) fight with. But in practically every one of his Psalms, you will see him lifting his eyes and his hopes to God.” (p. 165)

From the book of Psalms here is an example of “Prayers of a Wounded Warrior”:

“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You. My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me, ‘Where is your God?’ Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence. The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; and His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life.” — Psalm 42:1-3,5,8

“Since I am afflicted and needy, let the LORD be mindful of me. You are my help and deliverer; do not delay, O my God.” — Psalm 40:17

David’s confidence in the faithfulness of God is expressed in the section “Promises to a Wounded Warrior”:

“The LORD will be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble; and those who know Your name will put their trust in You, for You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.” — Psalm 9:9,10

“You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” — Psalm 16:11

Make David’s praises to God in “Praises from a Wounded Warrior” to be your heart-felt praises:

“I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the LORD.” — Psalm 40:1-3

“If the LORD had not been my help, my soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence. If I should say, ‘My foot has slipped,’ Your lovingkindness will hold me up. When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.” — Psalm 94:17-19

Rev. Adsit closes his words in this appendix with this, “We hope that you will identify with this man who, despite his courage, skills and accomplishments, was only a man. He was a man who recognized his need for a Savior, and his need for God’s help. He’s a good man for us to imitate as we grow through our dark days.” (p. 165)

Our prayer is that the knowledge of King David’s PTSD struggle and victory will be an encouragement to you who share this struggle.

Work Cited:

Adsit, Rev. Chris, The Combat Trauma Healing Manual: Christ-Centered Solutions for Combat Trauma (Newport News: Military Ministry Press, 2007)

Questions to Share:

1. Do you identify with any of the feelings David expressed in the prayers, promises and praises quoted above?

2. David proclaims his despair and then his dependence on God. Take a moment to express your concerns to God and then thank Him for His faithfulness to help and heal.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds. — Psalm 77:11,12

I will sing of the LORD’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself. — Psalm 89:1,2

The Bible encourages us to remember—experiences, dates, trials, lessons, relationships, etc. Why? To be reminded of God’s faithfulness. By looking back at significant times in our lives and seeing God’s hand at work, we have the confidence to face each day’s demands—and look forward to future challenges.

Because of this biblical admonition, I keep a unique journal. Each page in my binder represents a day of the year . . . and since 1998 I have recorded a brief 3-5 sentence summary—a verbal “souvenir” of sorts—with what I was thinking about or doing that particular day. Having that record allows me to begin each day with time dedicated to reading what God has done. If certain memories involve my adult children, I let them know with a simple, “Do you know what happened this day back in 2005?” There is always something with which I can encourage them—and I thank God for that.

There are certain days none of us will ever forget—and September 11, 2001, is one of them. “Where were you on 9/11?” is a question which never fails to engage another in conversation. Sara Horn, founder of Wives of Faith and author of the military favorites A Greater Freedom, God Strong and Tour of Duty, along with her more recent My So-Called Life as a Proverbs 31 Wife, My So-Called Life as a Submissive Wife, and How Can I Possibly Forgive? last month took the opportunity to think back to 9/11 and write a poignant message to her 13-year-old son, Caleb. The thirteen year time-span which she recalls allows her to include lessons learned during her husband’s three 10-month deployments.

So I include her very personal writing to encourage all of us to take time to remember. I believe it will be quite inspirational for those of you who have children—and who wonder how others teach their children about deployment memories.

The posting on her blog is entitled “13 years After 9/11, a note to my 13-year-old son.” With her permission, I ask you all to read it, think back, and thank God for His faithfulness.

13 years after 9/11, a note to my 13-year-old son

Questions to Share:

1. Which of Sara’s “You don’t knows” can you relate to? Why?

2. Which of Sara’s “You knows” can you relate to? Why?

40 Reasons NOT to Have an Affair

Written by Linda. Filed Under Marriage & Family

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD, and He examines all his paths. — Proverbs 5:21

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. — Colossians 3:5

A pastor wrote this list of forty reasons NOT to have an affair, NOT to commit adultery.  But it applies to us all, not just pastors—without exception. It seems like Satan is winning more than his share of marital battles, and we’re all sick and tired of the damage he is causing. If rational thinking will help, this list should do more than its share of convincing a person “on the verge of infidelity” to re-think and flee temptation.

Our fear is that in “the moment” rational thinking will not prevail. There is hope, however, and the opportunity to speak into that time before and when there is a choice—that “fork in the road”—when the whole future is at stake. Scripture says that God always provides a way of escape. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Scripture has quite a bit to say about sexual temptation. Proverbs 6:32 says, “But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself.” In 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6 we read, “It is God’s will that you should be holy; that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.” In 1 Corinthians 6:18-10 we find another warning: “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

We urge you to read this list very carefully. Agree with it. . . and keep it forward in your thinking in order to avoid any compromising situations or relationships.

40 Reasons Why I Do Not Want To Commit Adultery
By: Dr. Daniel D. Henderson

1. I would violate my relationship with my Savior and Lord Jesus Christ who has loved, cared and died for me. This action would disregard the selfless and cruel death He suffered in order to give me power over this sin.

2. I would bring public shame and unnecessary disrepute to His most holy and precious name, which I have been privileged to represent.

3. I would have to face someday my gracious Savior, eye to eye at His judgment seat, giving an account for willfully squandering His abundant provision of purifying grace. At that moment of eternal consequences I would inevitably witness the results of my own disregard for the rewards of faithfulness and obedience He so desired to give to me.

4. I would choose to submit myself to a destructive process of self-deception and the dulling of my conscience, causing a lack of confidence in my future ability to walk in obedience and faith.

5. I would inflict unimaginable pain on my wife, my best friend, and my faithful and sacrificial partner in ministry and life—and would have to stare into her tear-filled eyes to explain this conscious violation of my vows and describe the stupidity of my behavior.

6. I would permanently damage my wife’s ability to trust me or believe my word. I would lose her respect in the future, giving her constant cause for suspicion and question.

7. If my pattern of deception were to continue, or if she were unable to forgive me, I would lose her as my wife and would be left to face ongoing regret, loneliness and pain.

8. In this case, I would permanently ruin my wife’s future fulfillment causing her to face the remainder of her life feeling the struggle of rejection and dealing with the complications of single parenting or remarriage.

9. I would violate the love and trust of my precious children. In essence, I would be telling them, “Your mother is not a worthy person. Your father is a liar and a cheat. Honor is not as important as pleasure. My own selfish satisfaction is more important than loving my children”.

10. By destroying my own example and credibility with my children, I would lose future opportunities to influence them toward loving obedience and holiness and would plant within them a potential long-term resentment and bitterness toward the Lord and the ministry.

11. I would bring continual shame to my children every time they had to explain why their father was no longer in ministry—or why he was no longer together with their mother.

12. I would create destructive and continually tempting mental memories that would cultivate unhealthy lust and negatively affect future intimacy with my wife.

13. I would squander all of the money, time, effort and pain that have gone into my preparation for and development in the pastoral ministry.

14. I would seriously disappoint those godly leaders who have faithfully invested themselves in me (e.g. professors, pastors, mentors and relatives).

15. I would bring shame to the college and seminary from which I graduated, tarnishing their reputation and squandering their investment in my theological education and character development.

16. I would deeply wound and embarrass my parents whose loving instruction, sacrificial investment and current delight in the positive course of my life would be horribly violated.

17. I would significantly damage the solid ministry foundation and tarnish the wholesome legacy of my faithful predecessors of my current ministry.

18. I would bring long-term disrepute to the positive reputation of my church in the
community, hindering future ministry to people in this area.

19. I would undermine the credibility and effort of other Christian ministries and leaders in my city, adding to the climate of mistrust that continues to expand with each story of moral failure.

20. I would violate the precious trusting relationship with the elders of my church causing difficulty for them into the future as they seek to lead the congregation and causing a potential spirit of mistrust on their part toward future senior pastors at this church.

21. I would destroy my credibility and relationship with staff members who have faithfully supported me and responded to my leadership. A revelation of duplicity at this level would wound them deeply and would h9inger even their own leadership among the flock.

22. I would bring underserved difficulty and pain to my successor and his family, as they would be forced to reap what I have sown in their attempt to salvage the church and clean up the mess I would have made.

23. I would deeply wound all those who have been saved, disciple, equipped, counseled and prayed for under my ministry, causing disappointment and disillusionment for some.

24. I would create possible disillusionment in the hearts of young men preparing for ministry as they wonder about the credibility of my leadership and the viability of authentic pastoral ministry.

25. If this should become newsworthy at a statewide or national scale, I would exacerbate the growing climate of mistrust toward Christianity at an even broader level.

26. I would squander my witness to various unsaved friends, acquaintances and neighbors to whom I have witnessed over the years, perhaps driving them farther away from accepting Christ.

27. I would be thoughtlessly and carelessly throwing away the impact of the prayers of thousands of people who over the years have wholeheartedly supported me on their knees.

28. I would be heaping significant guilt and pain on the other woman, for the rest of her life.

29. I would potentially contribute to the dismantling of her marriage, family and network of trusting friends.

30. I would run the risk of the complications of a pregnancy resulting from the extramarital sexual activity.

31. I would run the risk of physical consequences in the form of sexually transmitted diseases.

32. I would suffer the consequences of losing a job and creating serious practical strain on my family financially and socially.

33. I would experience the trauma of a career change, having violated the qualifications for pastoral office.

34. I would join the ranks of those whom I have previously despised and whose actions have deeply grieved me because of their violation of calling and trust through moral scandal.

35. I would live with personal life-long embarrassment and shame, as I would encounter regular reminders of my foolish and destructive choices.

36. I would be required to invest a significant amount of time and money in the process of recovery, as many hours of counseling and years of rebuilding would be required.

37. I would take myself out of the running for multiplied opportunities in the future that could have come my way, had I remained faithful.

38. I would run the risk of being permanently “shelved” in my usefulness to God and His kingdom, knowing that the overwhelming shame and personal regret could cause me to completely give up my service for Christ.

39. I would cause a countless number of people to doubt the validity of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit and the power of Christ as they might ask, “If it didn’t work for him, can it really work for me”?

40. I would bring delight to Satan and his demons as these enemies of my soul and opponents of Christ would exult in their victory over one of God’s called servants.

Some of these concepts were originally conceived by Randy Alcorn in Leadership Journal. 1999 Daniel Henderson.

Worked cited:

http://www.danielhenderson.org/2010/04/40-reasons-why-i-do-not-want-to-commit.html

“Marriage Minutes” from Tuesday, November 8, 2011, by Bob & Cheryl Moeller

Questions to Share:

1. Were any of these forty items a surprise to you? Why or why not?

2. How important is it to you to guard your heart in order to guard your future?

Reunion

Written by Bea. Filed Under Marriage & Family

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence, or anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. — Philippians 4:8

Reunions need to begin the moment a spouse leaves for a deployment. As the deployed member prepares to leave, every day becomes one of anticipation of coming together again. Connection with your spouse before and during a deployment prepares your hearts for a harmonious reunion at the end of separation. As a couple you must connect on three levels: mind, heart and spirit/soul. This is known as three-part harmony.

With their minds a couple should share their fears about the deployment, but not dwell on “what if’s,” or how they will be different when they are together again. With their hearts they should listen with understanding, hear what their spouse is saying, and remember that a feeling is neither right nor wrong—it just is. With their spirits each spouse should pray relentlessly for the other, pray for God’s help in the difficult situations they will face while apart, and pray for their spouse and marriage.

Connecting spouses emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually before the deployment maintains a healthy balance in the relationship for when the couple comes together again. Remember a reunion starts before a spouse ever leaves home.

Questions to Share:

1. How can you connect with your spouse with your mind, with your heart, and with your spirit during deployment?

2. How does this connection prepare you for a sweet reunion?

Singing Your Prayers

Written by Linda. Filed Under Prayer

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

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 5:19-20

I remember two times in my life when I was at a total loss as to how to pray.

One time was when I was called to a friend’s house in the middle of the night. The circumstances that brought that family to call for the help of a friend were so horrible—so beyond my control—that I was absolutely at a loss for what to say, or pray. So we bowed our heads, and I sang. I prayed in song, My Faith Looks up to Thee. We made it through the night.

The other time was when we were stationed overseas. Our extended family in the States was struggling with problems beyond anything I had ever heard. Given the time difference and being an ocean apart, we never knew exactly from one day to the next what was happening as the situation unfolded. I would go for walks in the German countryside beside our village and sing. It was praying, God knows. I would sing the praise chorus, Oh how He loves you and me, but I would substitute the family names:

Oh how He loves John and Bob,
Oh how He loves John and Bob.
He gave His life,
What more could He give?
Oh how He loves John
Oh how He loves Bob
Oh how He loves John and Bob.

Although “John and Bob” are not their real names, I sang at the top of my lungs to the wheat fields! My words were sung in desperation. I am so grateful that Scripture promises, “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  — Psalm 34:17-18

Since those days, long past, I have had many other opportunities to sing prayers. I am not a great singer, but I have the hope that in heaven I will have a glorified singing voice. I love to sing Scripture, as in Seek Ye First and Thy Word is a Lamp Unto My Feet. I love to sing hymns like Great is Thy Faithfulness and Grace, Grace, God’s Grace. I sing them when my heart is full, and also when my heart is empty and needs filling. I sing when I’m happy, and also when I’m afraid and need to be reminded Who is sovereign.

1 Samuel 16:14-23 tells the story of King Saul being comforted by David as he would play his harp to soothe Saul’s troubled spirit. “Then relief would come to Saul, he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.” I can picture this scene, with David bringing comfort to Saul through the gift of music. Any parent of an infant knows the power of the lullaby to get their baby to calm down and go to sleep. And I believe that Christian music playing in the background of a home sets a tone of serenity.

Here are some more suggestions of songs that I have modified for a person’s need in prayer.  Just fill in the blank with their name:

“Softly and Tenderly, Jesus is calling. Calling for ____ and for me.”

“He is able, more than able to accomplish what concerns ____today.”

“In _____’s life, Lord, be glorified, be glorified.”

What a blessing to be able to lift someone up in prayer and praise! Whether that “someone” is in the desert, or at home alone, God knows and God hears. Prayers for salvation, prayers for protection, prayers for strength, prayers for comfort, prayers for healing, prayers for forgiveness, prayers for provision, prayers for wisdom and guidance, prayers of adoration and thanksgiving, prayers of contemplation and examination—He hears and He answers all the prayers of His children (silent, spoken, or sung).

Questions to Share:

  1. Is there someone right now for whom you want to pray, but don’t know how?
  2. Do you know the song, Jesus Loves Me? Could you sing that for them?

Your Tears Matter to God

Written by Linda. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. — Psalm 34:18

I would be surprised if you have gotten through this deployment without any tears.

Tears when your spouse left; tears during the long months of separation; tears at special occasions when your loved one’s presence is especially missed . . . tears matter.

Tears matter to God.

A couple years ago I read the daily devotion on A Slice of Infinity, a favorite of many (from Ravi Zacharias International Ministries), which was entitled “The Language of Tears.” I have never forgotten it, and saved the copy. I think it will be an encouragement to you, because your tears do matter to God.

Here’s what part of the writing said, “Many times, our response to tears is to admonish them away. ‘Don’t cry,’ ‘be thankful’ or ‘look on the bright side’ are dismissive statements, as much as they are meant to comfort. Yet, there are so many moments in life that cannot be expressed or soothed by words. They are too deep, too visceral to be simply captured by a clever turn of phrase. Instead, tears are the necessary articulation of our hearts, speaking out the groans too deep to be uttered.

“Indeed, tears are a language of their own. Whenever I am tempted to dismiss them or to try to overcome them, I am encouraged towards their free expression because of the way in which my Christian faith values them. Throughout the sacred pages of Scripture, there are tears. The tears of the grieving, the weary, and even the joyful—tears speak what the mouth cannot say.” (A Slice of Infinity, October 9, 2012)

Here are some Scripture verses about tears. Think about how important God views them:

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. — Psalm 56:8

The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; He will remove the disgrace of His people from all the earth. — Isaiah 25:8

For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you. — 2 Corinthians 2:4

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed. — Revelation 21:4

And don’t forget the story of the woman in Luke 7:36-50 who wet Jesus’ feet with her tears. And when Jesus’ wept at the tomb of Lazarus in John 11 . . . and over the city of Jerusalem in Luke 19.

Nancy Guthrie, in her great devotional The One Year Book of Hope, writes: “Some see tears not only as a loss of control but also as a lack of faith. It is as if the physical manifestation of tears gives evidence of a spiritual deficiency—that if our faith was big enough or deep enough or developed enough, we simply wouldn’t be this sad . . . But when you’ve lost something or someone who is valuable to you, when you have been forced to let go of a dream or live within a nightmare—that is something to be sad about. So let yourself be sad. And know that God does not discount or dismiss your tears. They are precious to him because you are precious to him.” (p. 3)

And because we are precious to God, tears are not the end of our story. Nancy Guthrie concludes: “Picture in your mind right now the Lord of the universe reaching down to gently and lovingly wipe away your tears. He doesn’t ignore them or tell you that if you really had faith you wouldn’t cry. He wipes them away. And Revelation 21:4 tells us that not only will he wipe away tears, he will remove all of the sorrow that caused them. God’s plan for the future is to destroy forever the evil that has brought you so much pain and then to live forever with you in a place he has lovingly prepared where there will be no more tears.” (p. 3)

The psalms are filled with instances where the writer is crying out to God, and then the “hinge” verse turns everything around in proclamation to the faithfulness and goodness of God. For example, in Psalm 31:10, 14 and 15 we read: “I am dying from grief; my years are shortened by sadness. Sin has drained my strength; I am wasting away from within . . . But I am trusting you, O LORD, saying ‘You are my God!’ My future is in your hands.”

Trust in the faithfulness of God is the hinge on which our heart turns. Lubricated by tears oftentimes, we can turn from despair on one side to an almighty God whose love is powerfully unshakeable yet tenderly compassionate. And we find hope on the other side.

Pray: “My Tear Collector, sometimes you seem so far away, it’s hard for me to grasp that you are sad with me. Give me the faith to see you now beside me and to see a future in which your hand will wipe away my tears forever.” (p. 3)

Work Cited:

Guthrie, Nancy, “Your Tears Matter to God,” The One Year Book of Hope (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2005), p. 3.

“The Language of Tears” by Margaret Manning, A Slice of Infinity, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, October 9, 2012

Questions to Share:

1. When have you cried during this deployment? Did you sense that God cared about those tears?

2. When brokenhearted or lonely, it is easy to turn to Facebook or friends or TV. Scripture encourages us to turn to His word: “I weep with sorrow; encourage me by your word.” (Psalm 119:28) What does Psalm 145 say to comfort your soul and restore your hope?

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Then He said to them all: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it.” —Luke 9:23,24

I was intrigued by the title of the book I saw in my local bookstore, probably because of its shock value. The title was How to Ruin Your Life by 40, and written by a favorite author of mine, Steve Farrar. I knew there would be something valuable in this book for me, for many reasons.

And since I’m especially bad about reading the end of a book first (so I know how it turns out—if it’s worth reading) . . . I was particularly grabbed by a closing section in the book entitled “The Greatest Fear.” Could you guess what this author believes is “the greatest fear?”. . .

“It is common knowledge that the greatest fear of men and women today is the fear of death. It usually appears as number one on top ten lists of people’s greatest fears. This is understandable. We do not know when our last breath will be or for what reason it will cease, and this hanging ignorance of the end leaves many in a lingering tension. But there is one fear that always fails to make the top ten lists, and yet, it may be the biggest fear of all: It is the fear of dying to one’s self.” (p. 131)

Certainly as military members we are sensitive to the subject of death and dying. We understand sacrifice. We are prepared, or as Christians we should be. But the daily burden of unselfish living—putting others’ needs above our own in every circumstance—how exactly do we do that? That is called “dying to self,” and I think the author has a good point in raising this matter as a “fear.”

Years ago Bible scholar and pastor/teacher Dr. John MacArthur taught about “dying to self” in a sermon from his daily radio program, “Grace to You.”  He said that his favorite teaching on the subject was a lengthy paragraph from an anonymous writer—and he kept it on his desk as a daily reminder of what Jesus calls us to do in Luke 9:23,24, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it.” I telephoned Dr. MacArthur’s staff after hearing this teaching—it challenged me to the core—and they emailed me what he said over the radio . . . which I will pass on to you:

“When you are forgotten or neglected or purposely set at naught, and you sting and hurt with the insult of the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ—that is dying to self. When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient loving silence—that is dying to self. When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, or any annoyance, when you can stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility, and endure it as Jesus endured it—that is dying to self. When you are content with any food, any offering, any raiment, any climate, any society, any attitude, any interruption by the will of God—that is dying to self. When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good works, or itch after commendation, when you can truly love to be unknown—that is dying to self. When you see your brother prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances—that is dying to self. When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself, can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart—that is dying to self.” —Anonymous

Whoa! I’m afraid I just can’t do that!! I know I can’t do that, and am afraid I will disappoint those who think I can! I’m afraid when the time comes, when unselfishness is absolutely required of me—that I will fail miserably! I’m afraid to admit there are desires within me which take precedence over the needs of others and obedience to my faith! Count me in—I’m afraid of the requirements of “dying to self!”

But the promise of Scripture is if I surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ, that Christ actually lives in me—and with Christ nothing is impossible! Maybe there’s hope for me! Galatians 2:20 reads, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” So with Christ living in me, I might actually be able to demonstrate the impossible—I might actually be able to demonstrate His “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22,23)

Staying in the book of Galatians we read, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:24, 25) And further teaching on this is in Romans 6, for example in Romans 6:11: “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” I am set free not only from the power of sin and guilt, but also set free from the fear of “dying to self.” It is in dying to my own selfish nature that I am alive in the power of the Holy Spirit to truly live, to truly love.

What does this have to do with deployment? Everything. In and of ourselves we will not be able to stand up under the extreme demands of fighting this global war on terror. We will focus on the unfairness of it all. We will fear the unknown. We will let anger have the day, and we will take it all out on our spouse—the one we are supposed to love the most.

It is only in the power of the Holy Spirit, living in us, that we will have the ability to conquer bitterness, fear, anger . . . selfishness. And by thinking of our spouse and their struggles we can encourage them during this time of separation. We are set free to serve one another in love—even when apart. We can ask the tough questions, like “How are you today?” “Do you know how much I love you?” “How can I pray for you?” And in doing that we are facing our fear . . . the fear of dying to self. And having faced that fear, we can truly begin to live.

Work cited:

Farrar, Steve, How to Ruin Your Life by 40 (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2006)

Questions to Share:

1. Do you believe that, in your marriage, you have been successful at living out Philippians 2:3,4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

2. During this deployment, how can you serve your spouse in love, considering their needs?

Thoughts from the Desert

Written by Matt. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions to Share:

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

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

 

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