A devotional to help military families stay connected during deployments

Thanksgiving Reminders

Written by Linda. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

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

Our family has a tradition of gathering around the Thanksgiving table and beginning our time together by sharing one thing that we’re grateful for that year. And so it goes— around the table with everyone adding their deep thoughts or silly remembrances from the past 12 months. Through the years I remember such blessings being voiced as new babies, surviving moves, finding new jobs, getting over illnesses, new marriages, interesting vacations, finishing up educational goals, new cars, new pets, etc.

Recently we were with a large group of military couples—all ranks and branches— where every couple in the room offered one thing for which they were grateful. It’s not hard to imagine what was shared: “I’m grateful to be home.” “I’m grateful to be alive.” “I am thankful for my spouse who kept everything going at home while I was gone.” “I’m thankful that we, as a couple, survived the deployment.” When we are with a group like that my husband and I know that we are standing on hallowed ground. There is a deep sense of wonder at how God has provided and protected. . . .and there were a few tears by the time we were done sharing our many blessings.

It doesn’t matter where we are, or which military group we are with, the proclamations of gratitude are profound and powerful—and deeply felt. I read a devotional recently, however, that reminded me to be a little more specific in my thanks-giving. You see, what we are really asked to do in Scripture is to give thanks—and more specifically, to give thanks to God. So the next time I am asked what I am thankful for, I am going to say, “I am thankful to God for _______.” No doubt this is always implied by our families and our groups as they are sharing their deep gratitude—but I think it’s a good reminder that everything, everything is from God—every breath that we take, every moment of every day, everything around us in creation—everything.

I was also raised with a weekly singing of the Doxology at our church. I remember a time or two around our Thanksgiving table when we closed out our time of thankful sharing (before the food got too cold) with the singing of this centuries old chorus:

“Praise God from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above all heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

Jill Carratini, a favorite devotional writer for Ravi Zacharias’ A Slice of Infinity, on November 24, 2008, wrote:

“Being thankful is therefore always more than a glib note of gratitude or a warm sentiment in general; it requires something far more personal. It not only chooses to recognize the gifts before us, but recognizes that there must also be a giver. There is someone to thank. There is one from whom all blessings flow.”

The second reminder that struck me this year was from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Perhaps this year, more than other years, you are questioning what God’s will is for your life. And in this Scripture verse it is so clearly stated, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Margaret Manning, also a great writer for A Slice of Infinity, shared her thoughts on this verse as a definitive proclamation for God’s will in our lives:

“Thanksgiving is God’s will for God’s people because when we give thanks for who God is and what God has done in our lives, there is no room for jealousy of what others’ have, no room for complaining about what we lack. Even in times of deepest sorrow, there is a joy that rises up on the heart when praise comes even with tears. Thanksgiving makes the heart full of gladness which overflows from our lives and spills out into acts of kindness and generosity. When we are grateful, we cannot help but share our gratitude. And this is the will of God for our lives. I am grateful for a day set apart to focus on thanksgiving, but I am challenged to live into God’s will for my life by giving thanks in everything, every day of the year.”  (November 25, 2008)

There are many times in my life when we have wondered what God’s will was for us as a military family. Questions arose such as “Which assignment do we put in for?” “Should we take the assignment at the base in the States, or try for an overseas one?” “Which training track does God want me to go into?” “Is the timing right for an unaccompanied tour, or should we wait until after the next assignment?” “Should we buy a house, rent, or live on base?” “Should the family stay near the base during this deployment, or move home with the folks?” “Do we stay in the service or get out?” Decisions were oftentimes made on the basis of open doors vs. closed doors, or maybe a list of pros and a list of cons. Prayers were spoken and decisions were made with thanks for His guidance.

Yet God’s Word is very clear—in all things we are to give thanks. That is His will for us. Easier said than done at times that are challenging (like deployments that keep families separated during the holidays), but His promises are always for our good. “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess His name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Hebrews 13:15-16) It is indeed through Jesus Christ that we can offer our praises to God for the freedom we have in forgiveness and in the knowledge of eternal life with Him.

Finally, and we shouldn’t need a reminder for this, we thank God for each one of you who are serving our country so faithfully (that includes the families!), all over the world. As Paul says in his letter to the Philippians (chapter 1, verse 3), “I thank my God every time I remember you.” We at Cru Military appreciate so much your sacrifices and give thanks to God for your gifts to all of us so that we, and others in this world, can live in freedom.

Questions to Share:

1. Name two things for which you are thankful to God this year.

2. Tell your spouse two things for which you are thankful to God for them this year.

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?

Love Letters

Written by Linda. Filed Under Lessons from History

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” — Jeremiah 31:3

“It was the love letters—that’s what really helped.” I was having a conversation with a military wife who had struggled for years through an unhappy marriage—but had seen that marriage turn around, slowly at first, because of changes that only God could have brought about.

One of the steps this couple had taken in their journey to marriage recovery was attending a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage conference several years ago. I wasn’t surprised that one of the projects they completed that weekend—to write each other love letters—had been instrumental in getting them back on the right track.

In ministry to military marriages, my husband and I hear about the value of those love letters a lot. It is one reason why we are glad that taking the time to write your spouse is a project in several of the HomeBuilders small group Bible studies, including Making Your Marriage Deployment Ready. Putting deep feelings down on paper can be a difficult exercise, but the benefits are priceless. To remember (again) what attracted you to your spouse in the beginning, to recount what you appreciate about each other, and to express how you hope to grow in love with God and each other . . . these declarations can take a fractured relationship and begin the process to regain wholeness. Not just writing, but giving, that letter to your spouse is truly the “gift that keeps on giving.”

In our culture of instant messaging, texting, email and cell phones it’s too easy to just share information. Sharing feelings is what keeps a couple connected through the ups and downs of marriage, especially during deployment. Sometimes this takes putting pen to paper—a time-tested tradition in which we can communicate information, share feelings from the heart, and have something tangible which your loved one can read. . . and re-read. . . during the lonely times of separation.

A Marine wife shared a letter exchange with me (and with his permission) that she and her husband had during one of his deployments. She had written and asked him, “What is it like to be loved by me?” Part of his answer included these words: “To know that one is loved at all produces a special type of resilience to whatever obstacles one faces, lifts the spirit, and gives one a sense of self-worth. No matter what happens in this life of mine, I know that I am loved by God, and that knowledge alone helps me through all the negative things that I may encounter whether they are from outside influences, or from within my own self. At the same time, this type of love magnifies the joy that life brings as well, giving love this awesome ability to protect, discipline, and bring happiness to ones self and to others as well.” Wow!

Stonewall Jackson is a wonderful role model for this—among the great letter-writers of all times. He had a beautiful marriage, and shared his thoughts oftentimes in correspondence with his wife. During the Civil War, one of his letters to her read, “When in prayer for you last Sabbath, the tears came to my eyes, and I realized an unusual degree of emotional tenderness. I have not yet fully analyzed my feelings to my satisfaction, so as to arrive at the cause of such emotions; but I am disposed to think that it consisted in the idea of the intimate relation existing between you, as the object of my tender affection, and God, to whom I looked up as my Heavenly Father. I felt that day as if it were a communion day for myself.” Life and Letters of General Jackson, p. 67.

We have two old trunks at our house filled with memorabilia. One includes letters from World War II, from my parents to each other as my father was serving in the Army Air Corps while my mother was waiting with little children at Romulus Air Field in Michigan and Hondo Air Field in Texas. The other trunk contains letters from the Vietnam War. . . from my husband and I to each other during our time apart. And it is not unusual for me to come across others who share that they have “discovered” a shoe box in their grandparents attic—filled with letters from past wars. I have to admit that when I read old family letters, I do not feel like I am “invading” personal lives. . . but rather standing on hallowed ground. I feel that I am a part of what took place years past and is now a part of our family legacy—the deep expression of loving feelings which have weathered the test of time.

So whether you struggle to find the right words—and choose instead to purchase an appropriate card. . . or write down the simple truth “I love you” on a slip of paper before putting it into an envelope. . . these words are gifts to your spouse, the impact of which may be beyond what you can now imagine.

And let us never forget that the greatest “love letter” to you and to me. . . is the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation and in every book in-between we see and read of God’s great love for us:

Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.” — 1 Chronicles 16:34

“But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate; slow to anger and abounding in love.” — Nehemiah 9:17

“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ Your love, O LORD, supported me.” — Psalm 94:18

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” — Lamentations 3:21-23

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” — John 3:16

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship (or deployment) or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” — Romans 8:35, 37-39

Amen and Amen. . . . What a Love Letter!

Work cited:

Tuley, Terry, Battlefield & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from The Civil War (Chattanooga: Living Ink Books, 2006), p. 186.

Questions to Share:

1. Have you ever hand-written a love letter to your spouse? If you did take that opportunity, what would you want to express?

2. Do you know that you are loved? Make a list of the ways in which you know you are loved by others and by God.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“So they are no longer two, but one.  Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Matthew 19:6

Our ministry verse has been “With my mouth (also with my pen and my computer) I will make Your faithfulness known through all generations.”  (Psalm 89:1)  My husband and I are not alone in this, and proclaiming God’s faithfulness in the midst of marital turmoil, illness, deployments and war, fear of failure, doubt and confusion, and rebellion of children—to name but a few challenges—is a privilege.  Our dear friends in the Lord and in ministry, Steve and Carleene, also have that calling on their hearts and lives.

So it was no surprise that Steve and Carleene would make themselves available to tell their story at a PWOC (Protestant Women of the Chapel) conference recently.  With their permission, here it is:

“From Carleene—‘Another Saturday night alone at Fort Bragg, NC, exhausted from another day alone with toddlers, alone without a husband to talk to, the kids without their daddy . . .I had been ruminating for months about giving up.  I could not stand the stony silences on the one hand, and the sharp retorts, the anger, the constant fighting when he was home.  Is this what marriage was supposed to be?

‘As I sat on the couch, the tears started to flow . . . the thoughts of failure cropped up once again . . .  I have failed at this thing called marriage . . . both sets of parents said we were too young to get married, and when I walk away from this marriage I will prove them right . . . could I face this failure?  Did I really want to be a single parent all the time?

‘I sighed and more tears came . . .this time, I had this thought and memory from my wedding day:  ‘What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.’ God, well, where was God in all of this?  Did He really care about me? He always seemed so far away running the Universe and all that.  I looked up from the couch and noticed a Bible in the bookcase.  It was a small, black non-descript book that I really never noticed before.  It seemed to have a light shining on it. Oh well, what the heck. I took it off the shelf and opened it; it practically fell open to these words from Psalm 40:

‘I waited patiently for the LORD;
(well, that got my attention)
He inclined to me and heard my cry.
(I’m crying right now)
He lifted me up out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
(my marriage is in the pit, and my name is Myer!)
He set my feet upon a rock
(wow, what is Jesus doing in the Old Testament – the rock)
And gave me a firm place to stand.
(are you saying You, LORD, want control of this mess I’m in?)
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.’
‘Yes, My daughter, give me control of your life and I will keep My promises that nothing, ‘no man,’ will put asunder what I have put together and blessed!’

‘From Steve—God was dealing with me, Steve, in a similar way at the same time, 3,000 miles away at the National Training Center. He revealed Himself to me in the desert and simply, but powerfully reminded me that His name is ‘I AM’, and He was near, very near and not some faraway God. He revealed His love for us and centered our lives together on His Song.  From that day we knew that we were secure in God and in our marriage.  Our journey together headed in a new direction and ever since we have had a passion for military marriages.’

‘From both Steve and Carleene—That was over 30 years ago, and God has kept His promises to us although life has not been easy (4 kids, 18 moves around the world—you know the scenario!)  There is still plenty in this world to ‘put us asunder’ . . . but from Psalm 5:  But let all who take refuge in You be glad; let them ever sing for joy.  Spread Your protection over them, that those who love Your name may rejoice in You.  For surely, O LORD, You bless the righteous; You surround them with favor as with a shield.”

Are you wondering about “the rest of the story!?” I asked Carleene what “next steps” she and Steve made after they committed their lives and their marriage to the Lord. Carleene answered, “Steve went to speak to his Bn Chaplain and we started going to the BDE chapel. Because it was a small group, the service was a combined Sunday school and we learned the basics—like ‘Who sits on the throne of your life?’ And the chaplain’s wife had a ladies’ Bible study that I attended. Slowly we learned forgiveness, because of the amazing forgiveness Christ has for us! We started to teach our children about Christ’s unconditional love as we began to know His love.”

Our God is so gentle, and so merciful. He takes us where we are, and He leads ever-so-gently, step-by-step. Because of the way that God uses them in ministry, hearts are touched and lives are changed in marriages around the world. They lead small-group Bible studies, seminars, offer retreat time for the war-weary at their lakeside home, and never cease to build “the basics” and hope into military marriages so that others can finish strong.

The Myers also believe in the power of prayer, and faithfully pray for many on the field of battle in Iraq and Afghanistan (including their son during his deployments) and for those on the home front. When I think back to that lonely night at Ft. Bragg, 30 years ago, when Carleene noticed the Bible on the book shelf that seemed to have a light shining on it—I believe that someone had been praying for her. And at the same time Steve was touched by the presence of God, reminding Steve of His love and plan for his life. Someone was praying for them—Praying perhaps that they would have eyes to see what God could do in their life together, and ears to hear what He would say to them about the redemption of their marriage through Jesus Christ.

Is God there in the room with a lonely, frustrated wife at Ft. Bragg?  Yes.
Is God there in training with a lonely, frustrated husband 3000 miles from home and 30 years ago?  Yes.
Is God with you where you are?  Yes, because He is faithful and His Word is true!

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

Questions to Share:

1. In what ways does Steve and Carleene’s story ring true in your life?

2. What would have been their legacy had Steve and Carleene given up on their marriage?

3. Read Psalm 40 and pray for God to speak to you. Pray for others you know who are struggling in their marriages because they do not know the Lord.

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.

Happy Birthday, Marines!

Written by Linda. Filed Under Lessons from History

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Outdo one another in showing honor. — Romans 12:10

My husband and I have the privilege of working with all five branches of the military. But until four years ago we had never been part of a Marine Corps birthday ceremony, officially celebrated on the 10th of November to mark that date in 1775 when the Continental Congress declared two battalions of Marines would be raised.

Before then, we had never heard the detailed explanation of the traditions surrounding the Marine Corps birthday celebration.  We had never seen a Marine Corps birthday cake cut with the sword and given ceremoniously to the oldest and youngest Marines present.  At the particular celebration location where we gathered, the oldest Marine present was 72 years old and the youngest was 70 years old. . . there were as many smiles in our group as there were tears.

Particularly meaningful was that part of the ceremony when the birthday greeting was given by video–and this year it is given by the Commandant, General Robert B. Neller and Sergeant Major Ronald L. Green:

On this 240th birthday of the Marine Corps, we have the opportunity to reflect on things that are honorable. . . including the heroic service of Marines and their families throughout the history of the United States. It does us well to think on things that are honorable: “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 and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8) Betsy Childs writes in Ravi Zacharias’ devotional site, A Slice of Infinity, of the value of thinking in this way, “While it took me a while to think of things that fit these characteristics, once I thought of them, my heart was full of gratitude and admiration. I found that I started looking out for these things, striving to recognize excellence and make note of it in my mind.” (“Think on These Things” 4/17/07)

It seems fitting to close this tribute to our fellow service members and their dear families with The Marine’s Prayer: “Almighty Father, whose command is over all and whose love never fails, make me aware of Thy presence and obedient to Thy will. Keep me true to my best self, guarding me against dishonesty in purpose and deed and helping me to live so that I can face my fellow Marines, my loved ones and Thee without shame or fear. Protect my family. Give me the will to do the work of a Marine and to accept my share of responsibilities with vigor and enthusiasm. Grant me the courage to be proficient in my daily performance. Keep me loyal and faithful to my superiors and to the duties my country and the Marine Corps have entrusted to me. Make me considerate of those committed to my leadership. Help me to wear my uniform with dignity, and let it remind me daily of the traditions which I must uphold. If I am inclined to doubt, steady my faith; if I am tempted, make me strong to resist; if I should miss the mark, give me courage to try again. Guide me with the light of truth and grant me wisdom by which I may understand the answer to my prayer. Amen.”

Thank you, Marines, for your proud and sacrificial service. And as we thank them, we thank all of you—the Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Coast Guardsmen. . . active duty, Guard, Reserve . . . and your families. . . for your faithfulness to serve in a noble cause with dignity and honor.

“Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.” Hebrews 13:18

Questions to Share:

1. What emotions did the video invoke in your spirit? Share those with your spouse.

2. In what ways is your military service leaving a legacy of honor in your family? How has God prepared you to serve in this way?

He Took God at His Word

Written by Linda. Filed Under Lessons from History

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

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

Have you ever heard the name Matthew Fontaine Maury? If you were ever stationed or lived in Virginia you may have heard of the Maury River. Plus there’s the Maury Hall at the University of Virginia, at the College of William & Mary, and at the United States Naval Academy. Three United States Navy ships have been named the USS Maury, and one named the USS Commodore Maury. . . . along with an oceanographic research vessel named after him at Tidewater Community College near Virginia Beach. There is Lake Maury in Newport News, Virginia, a statue of Maury in Richmond, a high school in Norfolk named for him, an elementary school in Alexandria, Virginia, and even a crater named for him on the moon. (1) Who was this man? Maury was a Naval officer and a scientist, a recipient of many medals and honors by nations around the world—and a Christian who believed God and took Him at His Word.

Born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in 1806, Maury grew up in a home where God’s Word was respected and taught. . . . and where God’s revelation in creation was observed and trusted. He joined the Navy when he was 19, following his brother in that calling. Maury taught himself navigation during his first ship assignments—and went on to become second to a ship’s commander in responsibility for navigating during ocean voyages. He enthusiastically collected data while underway—information which became critical to the charts which he published after circumstances kept him from pursuing a career at sea. In his job as Superintendent of the Depot of Charts and Instruments in the Hydrographic Office of the Navy from 1841-1861, and other positions which he held after that, his studies of the sea and air currents became widely known for their impact on commercial sea travel around the world—making ocean voyage more efficient. His achievements earned him the title of “pathfinder of the seas,” and most refer to him as “the father of modern oceanography.”

What does all of this have to do with Maury’s faith? On the basis of his reading of the Scriptures, Maury knew from Psalm 8:8, Ecclesiastes 1:6, and Psalm 107:23-24 that God designed and ordered the elements of nature which had fascinated him in his experience at sea and in his subsequent study. Maury contended that whoever studies the sea “must look upon it as a part of that exquisite machinery by which the harmonies of nature are preserved, and then will begin to perceive the developments of order and the evidences of design.” (2)  It was on the basis of his belief in the truth of Scripture that Maury made the scientific conclusions that he did.

Here are the verses which he used as he took God at His Word:

Psalm 8:6-8
“You made him ruler over the works of Your hands; You put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.”

Ecclesiastes 1:6
“The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course.”

Psalm 107:23-24
“Others went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the works of the LORD, His wonderful deeds in the deep.

So here’s the next question—what does God have to say to you from Scripture during deployment? What truth from His Word could you read—and trust Him with, as Maury did? What would happen if you really read these verses and believed that God means what He says?

Isaiah 43:2,3
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

Proverbs 3:5,6
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

Lamentations 3:22,23
“Because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

Philippians 4:13
“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

Luke 1:37
“For nothing is impossible with God.”

Colossians 3:23,24
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Psalm 56:10,11
“In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose work I praise—in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

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

Genesis 1:1
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Revelation 22:20,21
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.”

From the first words of the Bible in Genesis to the last words in Revelation. . . .God can be trusted—He can be taken at His Word. Matthew Fontaine Maury knew it in the 1800s, and you can know it today.

Work Cited:

1. Answers.com;

2. Maury, Matthew F., The Physical Geography of the Sea (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1859) cited in ApologeticsPress.org.

Also used in research were articles on Matthew Fontaine Maury from the Institute for Creation Research and Answers in Genesis.

Questions to Share:

1. Ask your spouse which of the Scriptures above is one that you would like to ask God to help you to believe.

2. If you were to trust God with the truth of that Scripture, what difference would it make in your life? in your marriage?

In His Hands

Written by Linda. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

But I trust in You, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hands . . .” – Psalm 31:14,15

Sometimes it’s a refreshing spiritual exercise for me to link several ways God has led His people to creatively convey His truth.

I recently heard JJ Heller’s song “Your Hands”: “When my world is shaking, Heaven stands . . . When my heart is breaking I never leave Your hands.”

Listening to her composition took me back twenty years to a similar truth conveyed by Wayne Watson in “Touch of the Master’s Hand”: “There’s many a man with his life out of tune, battered and scarred with sin; and he’s auctioned cheap to a thankless world much like that old violin. Oh, but then the Master comes, and that old foolish crowd they never understand . . .The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought Just by one touch of the Master’s hand.”

Which then prompted my weary, but inspired, mind to remember a writing that made its way around the internet several years ago:

A basketball in my hands is worth about $19.
A basketball in Michael Jordan’s hands is worth about $33 million.
It depends on whose hands it’s in . . .

A baseball in my hands is worth about $6.
A baseball in Mark McGuire’s hands is worth $19 million.
It depends on whose hands it’s in . . .

A tennis racket is useless in my hands.
A tennis racket in Pete Sampras’ hands is a Wimbledon Championship.
It depends on whose hands it’s in . . .

A rod in my hands will keep away a wild animal.
A rod in Moses’ hands will part the mighty sea.
It depends on whose hands it’s in . . .

A sling shot in my hands is a kid’s toy.
A sling shot in David’s hand is a mighty weapon.
It depends on whose hands it’s in . . .

Two fish and 5 loaves of bread in my hands is a couple of fish sandwiches.
Two fish and 5 loaves of bread in God’s hands will feed thousands.
It depends on whose hands they’re in . . .

Nails in my hands might produce a birdhouse.
Nails in Christ Jesus’ hands will produce salvation for the entire world.
It depends on whose hands they’re in . . .

As you see now it depends whose hands it’s in.
So put your concerns, your worries, your fears, your hopes, your dreams, your families and your relationships in God’s Hands.

Because, it depends on whose hands they’re in.” by Paul Ciniraj, as missionary in India

At the end of this particular spiritual exercise, which resembled a mental journey, I returned to the Bible and thanked God that He said it best of all in His Word, the Bible:

“Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; You are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; You are the ruler of all things. In Your hands are strength and power, to exalt and give strength to all.” —I Chronicles 29:11b,12

“The LORD delights in the way of the man whose steps He has made firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with His hand.” —Psalm 37:23,24

“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

“Listen to me, O Jacob, Israel, whom I have called: I am He; I am the first and I am the last. My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, and My right hand spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they all stand up together.” —Isaiah 48:12,13

“Yet, O LORD, You are our Father. We are the clay, You are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand.” — Isaiah 64:8

We are safe, in His hands, no matter where we are in the world tonight. To God be the Glory!

Questions to Share:

1. Which of the three individuals (two songs, one poem) expressed the thoughts of your heart when you hear the words “in God’s hands”?

2. Which of the Scriptures speaks to how God is meeting your need during this challenging time?

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.

Editor’s Note: I asked Diana Juergens, author of Wife of a Soldier, A Journey of Faith, to share with me her thoughts on parenting during deployment. Rich and Diana are the parents of eight daughters and had completed their sixth (or was it seventh?) deployment.  This devotion has been so popular that we are delighted to re-post it.

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  —John 7:38

Parenting well during a deployment begins with our faith—which begins with belief in the truth of Scripture. Being “plugged in” to our source of faith, the Lord Jesus, allows us to be full of “living water” (the Holy Spirit) which will then flow through us to our children. To put it another way—as Jesus tells us in John 15:5—we are to “abide in the vine.” “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” God is making it very clear when He describes Himself as the vine and His people as the branches that the branches must abide (remain in, stay) in the vine to bear fruit. Without the vine, the branch is nothing. Both of these verses quoted point to the most important source for parenting—Jesus Christ. He is the provider of our strength, joy, wisdom, and discernment (the fruit of abiding) to care for and train up our children while our husbands are gone.

Our family just experienced a 15 month separation. As I look back, I can point to seven truths to share about parenting during deployment:

1. Your relationship with God must be a priority.

I made my time with God the first thing I did every morning. Even if I went to bed late, I chose to rise before my children in order to have time with God. I knew that extra hour of sleep would not make up for the kind of strength I would need as a geographical single parent.

2. Remember that you are setting an example for your children.

I was humbled when my oldest daughter told me, “Watching you respond through difficult times, knowing your heart was hurting, has demonstrated to me that your source of peace is God. By your example, I know Him to be my only source, too.” Sometimes I think that our children learn more by watching than they do by listening! Here are some questions to ask yourself: Do your children see you reading your Bible and praying? Are you being their example of faith to draw near to God (James 4:8), to allow God to be your refuge (Psalm 141:8), and to allow Him to be your source of joy (Habakkuk 3:18) in spite of your circumstances? Your Godly example will impact their journey of faith and their everyday life.

3. Make sure that you teach your children about the sovereignty of God.

The verse I read with my children is Jeremiah 29:11-13: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Knowing that God has chosen this time apart can give you the assurance that it is what is absolutely best for your lives. God loves us, and His Word confirms that He is good (Nahum 1:7). He uses all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). This deployment separation is a wonderful opportunity to teach your children how to trust God by embracing the new work which he wants to do in and through your family.

4. Pray.

As parents, we are to be shepherding our children according to God’s heart and with His knowledge and understanding (Jeremiah 3:15). The children and I begin the day in prayer and devotional time together—the keys to parenting during a long separation include daily prayer and time in God’s Word as a family. And during our times separated as a family, due to the calling placed on our soldier, we have learned to run to God when our hearts are hurting, afraid and overwhelmed. We stop what we are doing and let the tears fall as we cry out to God for His comfort and peace. He has intervened every time and provided exactly what we have needed. God has used these painful times to draw us each closer to Him. Each deployment has provided the circumstances that have taught our family life lessons of faith. We also use our devotional time as an opportunity to pray for the safety of our soldier and his unit, our nation’s president and those in leadership, and for the people within the nation to which my husband is deployed.

5. Discuss God’s purpose for this deployment.

We must encourage our children with examples from God’s Word, to believe that God knows exactly what He is doing. His goal is to always use our circumstances to increase our faith and trust in Him, while using us to touch other’s lives with His love. Memorizing Deuteronomy 32:4a (“He is the Rock, His work is perfect.”) will help you stay focused on the call placed on your lives, to be separated as a family for such a time as this (Esther 4:14b). You can make this even more real by locating the country to which your husband is deployed in an atlas and learning all you can about it and its people. Find an organization, like Voice of the Martyrs that will help you send care packages to the hurting people within that nation. You can also give your children a vision for the time apart by teaching them to serve others who are experiencing deployment and need help. Look for ways to use the gifts and talents within your family to reach out and be a blessing to others. There is no room for a sorrowful heart when you are serving and encouraging others. Many years ago my wise husband designated Matthew 5:16 as our family verse, and we seek to let our “light shine” to the glory of God.

6. Journal what God is doing in your family’s life.

Our family (including my husband while he is away) keeps a record of all God is doing in us and through us by journaling. An inspiration for this was Jeremiah 30:2. It has been a wonderful encouragement to our family as we read our entries and reread ones already written. Each entry is a new testimony of God’s plan and faithfulness.

7. Actually this one should be first—prepare your hearts in prayer before the deployment.

There is much to do to prepare for deployment, but don’t forget to pray that God will prepare your hearts, as a family, for what He will do while you are separated. Begin to pray for new opportunities to arise which will allow your family light to shine, to bring glory to God. Remember, He who has called you to this time apart is faithful. “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

Questions to Share:

1. How can you implement the seven points above with your family during deployment?

2. Pray for God’s guidance to teach, lead, and love your children with grace and compassion—and wisdom—during this time of separation.

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