A devotional to help military families stay connected during deployments

Prayers at Sea

Written by Chaps. Filed Under Lessons from History, Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?  — Psalm 8:3,4

“Father, as we steam into another night and provide another over-watch into our skies . . . May we remember that You are the One who set the stars in motion and granted us life.

We invite Your presence into the mission ahead and on into the deck plates of our lives.

May our steps be safeguarded and unseen obstacles be removed.

May our shipmates become as family and our families become as treasure.

As we hold to their memories and the ones being built, Help us gain new understandings to the problems before us, while also granting grace to others who stand behind us.

Help us, Lord, to build upon our strengths while continuing to rely upon Yours. Amen”

Editor’s Note:  The above evening prayer, delivered by a Navy chaplain recently at sea, brings to my mind “The Navy Hymn.”  Also called “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” it was written as a poem by Rev. William Whiting of Winchester, England in 1860. The music accompanying these lyrics was added in 1861 by Rev. John Dykes, another English clergyman.

In 1879 it became practice for the first verse of this hymn to be sung at the conclusion of chapel services on Sundays at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis.

Through the years, verses have been adapted to “The Navy Hymn” to reflect naval service by aviators, submariners, Seabees, SEALS, Marines, military families, and others who serve nobly.

Below are the first and last verses of a common version of “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” found in Protestant hymnals. We have also included a performance of these verses by the 2008 Naval Academy Mens’ Glee Club.

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bids the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep:
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.

O Trinity of love and power,
Our brethren shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them where-so-e’er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad praise from air and land and sea.

Information from www.history.navy.mil Frequently Asked Questions on “Eternal Father, Strong to Save”:  The Navy Hymn

Questions to Share:

1. How do you pray for each other while geographically separated during deployment?

2. Ask your spouse how you can pray for them during this next week, and then keep a journal of the prayer requests and how God answered them.

On the Road

Written by Linda. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priest. About noon, O king, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ ‘Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentles. I am sending you to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’” — Acts 26:12-18

Paul was on the road to Damascus when God met him—and changed his heart. His heart was changed. . . . his life was changed. . . the world was changed because of this. Also—The Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40 was on the desert road from Jerusalem to Gaza when he met Philip and God changed his heart. . . .and his life was changed. . . .and the world was changed. And consider—Nicodemus was on the road at night (John 3:1-21)—with questions for Jesus. Jesus had answers, eternal answers . . . not just for Nicodemus but for all of us. Then—Jesus was walking on a path beside the Sea of Galilee when he met and called his first disciples . . . they responded as their hearts were changed. Their lives were changed dramatically and their obedience to His call changed the world. Plus—The Samaritan woman was on her way to draw water from the well when Jesus met her, had a conversation with her (John 4:4-42), and her life—and the lives of those in her village—were changed forever. These are just a few of the examples of how God met people on the road. . . .and then there’s my own journey:

I was in the midst of a TDY and living with in-laws—on the road to a new PCS assignment—when God met me there. Because He met me there, He changed my heart. Because He changed my heart, He changed my life. Because He changed my life, He changed my marriage. Because He changed my marriage, He changed my home. Because He changed my home, He changed my children’s hearts. Because He changed my children’s hearts, He changed their lives. Because He changed their lives, He changed their children’s hearts. God met me where I was (alone in Oklahoma)—and my world has never been the same.

What road are you on? Are you on the road to Baghdad? to Kabul? to Bagram? to Qatar? to Kuwait? to Okinawa? to Norfolk? to Cape May? to Ft. Pickett? to Camp Pendleton? to Osan? to training? God can meet you there.

Maybe you’re on the road to your hometown to stay while your spouse is deployed. Maybe you’re on the road to your next assignment, where you will stay until he or she returns. Maybe you’re on the road to a house off-base. God can meet you there.

Maybe you’re on the road to loneliness. Maybe you’re on the road to despair. Maybe you’re even on the road to divorce. God can meet you there.

Maybe you feel like you’re on the road to nowhere—totally stuck with no hope for any change for good. God can meet you there.

It might be a billboard message. It might be a word from a friend, or even a stranger. It might be a song that comes to mind. It might be a comment on the radio. It might be a program on TV, or something you see on the computer. It might be in your reading. Or it might be that still, small voice—and God speaks to you amidst your comings and goings, or amidst your confusion.

The question will be—do you have ears to hear? Do you have eyes to see? In my case, I was empty. Life was missing something, but I didn’t know what. And then I heard the gospel message—from strangers, but really from the heart of God piercing my heart in a way that had never happened before. I heard. I knew then that I was a sinner in need of a Savior—and Jesus was His name. He loved me! He had a purpose for my life—just like He did for Paul on the road to Damascus. He gave me forgiveness . . . and a hunger for His Word that has never been quenched, even thirty years later.

Truth and peace have been my companions, on the road, ever since. It’s still been a tough road at times (hills, stop signs, turns), but it’s been a good road.

P.S. Any detours have been of my own doing.

Questions to Share:

1. If God spoke to you on your road, how are you prepared to listen?

2. How will your family be impacted by your growth in knowing God? If you were to grow in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). . . would that change the way you interact with your spouse?

3. If you want to know more, click here.

7 Steps in the Walk of Faith

Written by Linda. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever. I will praise You forever, Because You have done it; And in the presence of Your saints I will wait on Your name, for it is good. — Psalm 52:8,9

The family was hit with tragic news—so unbelievable and unexpected, and particularly difficult for his wife. As the spiritual leader, this husband knew there were steps he must take in order to get his family through the crisis.  He cried, “Lord, help!”

Those steps would have to be steps of faithbecause there was no seeing the “whys”, “hows”, and “what ifs.” All of that was beyond understanding . . . with no idea what God was doing. But his Christian faith was strong . . . so he was willing to take the first and certain steps of faith in order to lead his family with gentleness and power, a remarkable combination.

Oswald Chambers, the great theologian from the early 1900s and author of the devotional My Utmost for His Highest, presents a strong challenge to those facing similar trials: “When we are in fear we can do nothing less than pray to God, but our Lord has a right to expect that those who name His name should have an understanding confidence in Him. God expects His children to be so confident in Him that in any crisis they are the reliable ones . . . it is when a crisis arises that we instantly reveal upon whom we rely. If we have been learning to worship God and to trust Him, the crisis will reveal that we will go to the breaking point and not break in our confidence in Him.” Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest, August 12th

The husband did have a desire to lead with confidence and trust in God, but his own emotions were close to the breaking point. Watching him take these seven steps of faith revealed to us his reliance on God, and his confidence did not break:

  1.  He knew this would be a journey of faith and it would not be clear what the outcome would be. Acknowledging his helplessness was the first step, and the husband did this humbly in prayer, citing: “We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7) and “. . . faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).
  2. Next, the husband knew he must go to the source of faith for strength to face the day and the days to come. He had no strength on his owndrained by circumstances.  So the second step was to decide to spend time in God’s word: “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) Knowing that the path would be long and hard, he believed the scriptural truth, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
  3. The third step was to meditate on the Scriptures which stated what he was sure of. Emotions in his family were bordering on total confusion, so he focused on what he knew to be certain: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear . . .” (Psalm 46:1,2)  “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise renews my life.” (Psalm 119:50)  “I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1,2)  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)  “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)  He wrote Scripture on index cards to refer to during times of weaknesswhich came, but less and less as time went on.
  4. The husband knew that step four was patient endurance, and he took that step with new-found confidence. At first just surviving the day, then the week . . . and growing in perseverance along the way: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:3,4)
  5. The husband also knew that endurance would be twin to encouragement. Friends and family (especially church family) would be essential if his family was to survive this ordeal intact. Instead of isolating themselves in their pain, the husband led his family in the fifth step—keeping them open to help and open to worship: “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5,6)
  6. The sixth step was to look for hope with new eyes. With mature thinking, the husband knew that, in the flesh, we can all be blinded by despair and discouragement. Looking for how God is moving takes Holy Spirit-led vision, and the husband was ready: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)
  7. Their road ahead remains hard . . . the journey long. Steps of faith are never easy and require total trust in God in the dark. The husband prayed Proverbs 3:5,6: “Lord, I pray that I will ‘Trust in You with all my heart and not lean on my own understanding. In all my ways I will acknowledge You, and I know You will make our paths straight.’ Step seven was to praise God for His sovereignty and His presence . . . with all thanksgiving. This was perhaps the most counter-intuitive step of all, but necessary because Scripture says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).

In spite of everything they have been through, this family stands together in faith.  They are an inspiration to us all.

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

Questions to Share:

1.  What crises of faith have you experienced in your life as a couple? How did you rely on your trust in God to get through them?
2. What crises of faith have you experienced during deployment? How did you rely on your trust in God to get through them?
3. Are you facing a crisis right now? What steps do you need to take to lead your family well, from the battlefield or from the home front?

“As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us.” — Hebrews12:1

My great-grandfather was wounded during an assault on the German lines during the Battle of the Somme in France during WWI. He was one of the 57% casualties suffered in his corps. A quote from a German machine gunner regarding the first day of the battle gives us some idea of why the casualty rates were so high: “We were very surprised to see them walking, we had never seen that before… I noticed one of them walking calmly, carrying a walking stick. When we started firing, we just had to load and reload. They went down in their hundreds. We didn’t have to aim, we just fired into them. If only they had run, they would have overwhelmed us.”

It’s unthinkable to walk under fire in a modern battle. No one walked casually up to Iraqi positions in Kuwait, no one strolled along the streets of Mogadishu, and no one calmly wandered into Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan. These days we run. Short, controlled bursts of running, weaving and keeping low to present less of a target. An assault is not a casual affair, but one that takes thought, alertness, focus, responsiveness and energy. We run, keeping an eye on those around us, on the enemy and on the ground in front of us so that we will not stumble. Walking is not an option when someone is shooting at you.

Strange then, isn’t it, how many of us walk casually into the spiritual battles that we are engaged in every day. We can nonchalantly ignore the mines and obstacles that Satan places on the battlefields of life to injure or destroy our marriages and families. We can casually allow destructive things to creep into our homes. We may turn a blurred, if not blind eye to material on the internet, movies and TV that undermine our commitment to our spouse, or start our children in destructive habits. I challenged the 12-year-old son of a friend once to look away when a lingerie advertisement appeared on TV. He responded, “Why? It’s only an advertisement!” He was walking into “enemy fire.”

Are we playing with temptation instead of fleeing from it? I’ve heard married soldiers say about people they were not married to: “you can look, but don’t touch.” Thinking that way about someone you are not married to is walking into “enemy fire.” And there are other ways that we can walk into the dangers of battle. For example, we sometimes choose pride over humility and refuse to ask or grant forgiveness, convincing ourselves that we are justified. Or we don’t always think about the words we use, even when we can see the damage we are doing. Plus we can fail to make positive communication a priority when we are apart. If we do not choose to make our relationship with our spouse a priority when at home together, or separated by deployments, we are walking into “enemy fire.”

I am amazed how many people still manage to claim that they are innocent victims and look shocked when their worlds collapse after they have ignored enemy fire instead of avoiding it. They walked calmly into Satan’s machine guns when they should have RUN! The apostle Paul talks often of running in his letters. There is no mistaking the urgency he wants us to adopt in life. He tells us in Hebrews to “rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way… and run with determination.” That’s good advice for physical and spiritual battles. Life isn’t a casual thing, and if we treat it casually, we should not be surprised when we see ourselves and our family stumble or fall on the battlefield. Rest when you can, but stay alert and when the enemy opens fire, RUN!

Questions to Share:

1. What destructive habits (hurtful words, lack of forgiveness, uncontrolled TV/Internet, playing with temptation, etc.) have you overlooked in yourself, your marriage or your family?

2. What positive habits (encouraging words, good communication, praying together, Bible reading, etc.) have you not yet instilled in yourself, your marriage or your family?

3. Agree together to work on a few of the changes you need to make and ask the Holy Spirit to keep you accountable.

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 139:7-12

She sat in the living room of the house with furnishings and mementos which they picked out and purchased together.

She had just gotten their energetic children on the bus and off to school.

She was surrounded by pictures of their wedding and memories they had made together before and since that day. She started the day by re-reading some love letters he had written.

She planned to Skype with her deployed husband in the afternoon to make sure plans for their R & R were coming together.

She emailed and Facebooked for a while in order to keep their network of friends and family updated on his condition and her needs. She prayed to the Lord to protect him and his unit.

Yet, if she let herself, she could go by her feelings and think that she was all alone. . . .

He sat in his tent and opened a care package he received from her that day—full of goodies.

He had just talked with his wife at home and had reassured her of their plans for R & R.

He had asked lots of questions about how the kids were doing in school and how they, together, could parent with purpose.

He could gaze at his bulletin board and enjoy pictures of their family and memories they had made together. He re-read some love letters she had written.

He emailed her to thank her for the package, thank her for taking the time to Skype and tell her good-night. He prayed to the Lord to protect her and the children.

Yet, if he let himself, he could go by his feelings and think that he was all alone. . . .

They moved about with health and strength in the shelter provided them and surrounded by unmistakable beauty of the vastness of creation.

They loved each other deeply and considered their oneness to be a gift from God.

They enjoyed technology unknown to past generations, allowing them to communicate whenever possible.

They knew that, God willing, they would be reunited soon.

They were blessed with the bounty of friends and the legacy of children.

They prayed to the Lord . . . . yet, in their darker moments, they insisted that they were all alone and feeling hopeless. . . .

Really?  How reliable are those feelings?

Let’s look at this a little closer–is it possible that a couple separated by deployment can be considered a picture of the Christian faith?  . . .you live in a place far away from your eternal home; you love God whom you cannot hold but Who has written you of His love; you communicate intimately in prayer with Him; you find strength in remembering how He has saved you and how He guides/protects/comforts/loves you; and how you can look forward to His coming again and your time together in all eternity?

If that is possible, then how do we encourage each other during these tough days of deployment separation when our feelings can cause us to believe things that are just not true? The answer—with Truth.

The same way that Paul instructs us in Romans 15:4: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Our life on this earth. . . . knowing that as believers we will be united with our bridegroom, Jesus Christ, in heaven someday—that God’s presence is very real—that the Holy Spirit can comfort, convict, and guide us through the difficult days as we communicate with God through prayer, worship, study, and fellowship —and that His word, the Bible, is His love letter to us . . . .is challenging.  But the truth is that we are not alone—that He loves us—and that we can live in faith and perspective of our time on earth and eternal life as followers of Christ.

We encourage each other as a married couple in the same way we encourage each other as fellow believers—with gratitude for what we have in oneness, with stories of our past together, with communication of our needs and confidence in days ahead together, and in serving others through difficult times.

Satan is the enemy who would seek to discourage us and lead us into believing lies. Be vigilant, be armed, be encouraged—God is the victor!

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

Questions to Share:

1. When do you feel most alone? What is it that encourages you the most during those times?

2. How can you encourage your spouse when they feel alone?

3. Why is basing truth on feelings unreliable?

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. — Philippians 4:8

You would think after writing and editing for Excellent or Praiseworthy for eight years that I would have read, heard or thought about everything to be learned from Philippians 4:8. You would think I would have exhausted the lessons from Paul’s challenge to focus on everything true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. And taking those virtues into the arena of deployment might have been more than most thought plausible—but we have explored lessons from history, spiritual training, teaching for marriages and families, and prayer encouragement in order to focus on the challenges of military service in light of God’s truth in Scripture.

But recently I was challenged by teaching I had never considered. That is taking Philippians 4:8 into one of the most normal, everyday struggles of marriage—conflict between husband and wife.

Picture this—a husband knows that his love language is “words of affirmation.” He thrives on kudos . . . and doesn’t shrink from enjoying praise because of his good work, even godly work. Because his wife’s love language is “acts of service”, she wants his help with the work around the house—including parenting—instead of listening to what good things happened at work. But after a while he feels disrespected because of her lack of interest in his need for affirmation. After a while, she feels unloved because of his lack of desire to help with her needs.

What transpires is not a fight (well, sometimes) . . . but mostly isolation. Coldness. Distance. And before long his thought life goes to, “’She doesn’t respect you like she ought to because you’re doing big things for God, and she is just here cleaning the house.’ . . . (Satan) starts running her down in my mind, and I accepted those thoughts. And I start getting frustrated with my wife: ‘She’s not loving me, respecting me, or supporting me like I think she ought to.’”

This husband goes on to say, “In my mind, I would run her down. Sometimes, in her mind, she would run me down. Guys, you do not win those wars. We’re not fighting the right way. Instead of fighting for my marriage, I was fighting her as if she was my enemy. She is not my enemy!  This is what the Lord taught me in the process.”

And lest you think this is some random guy—these words are from Alex Kendrick, producer and actor in Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous . . . and author of The Love Dare. He spoke on the FamilyLife “Love Like You Mean It” Cruise and shared this story.

Kendrick went on to speak to those on the cruise, “Four months ago, I’m studying and getting ready to do our ramp up and do our next movie and stuff—as I’m with the Lord, and I remember I’m in His Word—and it was like He just kick-boxed me in the head: ‘Alex, you are running your wife down in your mind. She is not your enemy. The enemy wants to distract you, deceive you, and divide you. Your wife and you are one unit. Both of you are sinners, and both of you are in need of My grace.”

Feeling the Lord leading him to remember that his wife, Christina, is God’s gift to him and designed by God to have strengths which he lacked . . . Kendrick began to make a list of whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute—about Christina!

He knew that list was what he should dwell on about Christina. He said, “The list for her—the positive list—was very long. Guys—don’t run your spouse down, in your mind. . . If you are in Christ, what do you do? Follow Philippians 4:8. Your spouse is a sinner, but they are not your enemy.”

Alex Kendrick’s talk on board the ship, speaking to the 1,000 passengers gathered to hear the word of God taught and the gospel shared in the context of marriage, was so well received that it was shared with the listeners of FamilyLife Today with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine. I took Kendrick’s teaching from the transcript of that March 3, 2014, airing to share with you.

What does this have to do with deployment? Geographic distance and the pressures of war can lead a couple to misunderstandings in communication. Happens all the time. What do you do? Instead of running your spouse down—thinking the worst—make a list. Make a list of what is true about your spouse . . . what is noble . . . what is right . . . what is pure . . . what is lovely . . . what is admirable. Like Alex Kendrick, your list is going to be long because those are the character qualities which attracted you to your husband or wife in the first place.

But sometimes we forget.

And sometimes Satan can cause trouble in a marriage.

Take the advice of the author of The Love Dare . . . and dare to love your spouse the way Christ loves them . . . with grace. And pray that they love you the same way. Think on these things.

Work Cited:

“The One Thing” by Alex Kendrick, aired on FamilyLife Today Radio on March 3, 2014.

Questions to Share:

1. Pick at least one of the eight qualities which the Apostle Paul encourages us to think on—and list ways in which your spouse demonstrates that quality.

2. Pray for each other . . . that you would keep your mind stayed on the strengths of your spouse.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

In memory of Denise McColl, who went home to be with our Lord eight years ago on March 29, 2008. . . and in honor of the McColl family who demonstrated great love and care. . .we are re-posting this devotion.  It was originally posted on February 25, 2008, before Denise’s death. May their story bless you as the McColls have blessed us. . .

New words and phrases keep coming into our English language—some better than others! On the “bad” side, I am distressed at the new use of the word “whatever.” Being one who loves Philippians 4:8, from which this devotional is named, the word “whatever” leads me into thinking of things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. But now, in our culture, “whatever” is tossed out in disrespect and flippancy—often to cut off a conversation in misunderstanding.

But on the “good” side, I really enjoy the new phrase that we use to help visualize a new idea and to begin planning to that end. “What would it look like if ________” is the way we can gather and dream about a new project, with hopes that the outcome will look the way we envision.

So here’s the question: What would it look like if a Christian couple chose to face military life as an opportunity to exhibit and demonstrate Christ-likeness under all circumstances. . . even deployment?  What would it look like if they faced the challenges of “constant schedule changes, the times of transition, the long periods of waiting, (for orders, housing, homecomings, etc.) the many uncertainties concerning deployments, the long periods of single-parenting, the long ‘silent’ periods during separations, the months spent ‘camping out’ at each new location, the adjustments of each family member at new homes, schools, and working environments” (Footsteps of the Faithful, p. 11) totally relying on God to meet their needs, strengthen and comfort them, in order to be able to finish strong?

It would look like the McColl family, as shared in the book Footsteps of the Faithful, subtitled “Victorious Living and The Military Life.” This book was life-changing for me, in terms of ministry to military families facing the global war on terror. The book was written in the early 1990’s by a Navy wife whose husband served on submarines. Here is Denise McColl’s perspective, “We wives have a unique opportunity as Christians serving in the military to share the peace that the Lord gives us even in our husbands’ comings and goings. It is a living testimony that our security, our worth, and our perspective is not totally wrapped up in our spouse’s presence, but in the presence of the God whom we serve.” (p. 118) Wow! This is what Kingdom-living looks like, military-style!

I have never met Denise McColl, and chances are, this side of heaven, we will not meet. You see, Denise is experiencing great pain and suffering with brain cancer—on the opposite coast of the United States from where I live. Her husband and five daughters have been lovingly caring for her—no doubt with the help of many friends and professionals. When I found out that the McColls were going through this tender time, I felt compelled to share the legacy that this family’s story has meant to me.

One of my favorite chapters in the book is entitled “Deployment Detours.” In it, the oldest daughter (Heather) asks her mother this question:

But, Mom, what do you really think Dad’s doing?’ Heather prodded.

‘I really don’t know, Heather. But you know what? It doesn’t matter, because I know that whatever he’s doing, God is watching over him. And hopefully he is having lots of chances to tell people about Jesus. Do you remember what Daddy reminded you of when he left, girls?’

‘Yeah, Mom. He told us to encourage each other and to be a blessing.’

‘That’s right. And I hope you will continue to do that. And when you do, think of your dad at sea who hopes so much to do the same. He wants to encourage his shipmates and to be a blessing to them. If you can remember to pray for him about that, you’ll begin to have a pretty good idea about what he’s doing. Does that help girls”? (p. 79)

It did help, and their story helps us to see victorious Christian living in spite of challenges. As my husband and I travel as missionaries to posts and bases, we are introduced to other military families who live out Matthew 6:33: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” We are blessed by their faithfulness to each other and to God and consider it a privilege to pass on their stories. Not that they don’t struggle with good days/bad days. . . .but that they’re able to face the days filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaiming His faithfulness to all generations.

Halfway through Footsteps of the Faithful, Denise includes a chapter written by her husband, Angus. As leader of the McColl family, I was intrigued by what he had to add to her account. Here is some of what he wrote:

“I have decided that the best thing that I can do as a military man who feels called by God to ‘stay with it,’ is to look for other ways in which I can minister to my wife and family rather than to be frustrated by the ways in which I can’t. I know that while I am on sea duty I will often not be able to minister to them, but I have learned a lot of ways that I can still share with them even in my absence. I have learned that even though I am often gone, it is mostly a matter of making my family a priority.” (p. 109)

He continues as he shares how prayer kept them together during deployments:

“I have found it useful to develop a list of prayer topics with my wife prior to leaving so that we have some common ground for prayer. Developing this list together before deploying and then checking it together after being reunited has been one of our greatest encouragements as a couple. . . . Separation is never easy, but prayer builds many bridges, and it is a great tool to help us cling to common ground.” (p. 113) He goes on to add the value he saw by choosing a “family deployment project.” Perhaps that is another story for another “Excellent or Praiseworthy” devotional! Stay tuned. . . .

Denise closes her book in proclamation of God’s provision and God’s purpose:

“Thankfully, we don’t live from war to war but from day to day. And in our day to day living, the grey spots can certainly cloud our perspectives, often so much so that we give up the battle as we lose our stance under the pressures of military life. That is why our stability in Jesus is of utmost importance. . . . God’s purpose is not that we grope through the grey times, but that we grow through them! We don’t often see what His purposes are in undergoing a harsh time until we are on the other side of it. So our only hope is to cling to Him through it, to stand firm or move forward as He calls us.” (p. 206-207)

May God bless you and your family, Denise, in your current battle, and may “…the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:7

McColl, Denise, Footsteps of the Faithful: Victorious Living and the Military Life. Orlando: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1994.

Questions to Share:

1. What would it look like if we could take Philippians 2:14 to heart and chose to live it in deployment? “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.”

2. What would it look like if you faced death with the assurance that you were going to spend eternity in heaven with Jesus? “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

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.  Do you believe this?”  — John 11:25,26

My Christmas celebration includes listening to the delivered words of Dr. S. M. Lockridge in his sermon, “That’s My King!”  And a similar joy comes at Easter when I listen to his preaching “It’s Friday. . . but Sunday’s Comin’!”  This year I can share with you the powerful presentation put together with scenes from Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of The Christ.”  The video clip captures joy which Christians are experiencing because of the truth of the empty tomb on Resurrection Sunday:

What are you going to do with this truth?  The Apostle Paul wrote:  “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. . .”  I Corinthians 15:3,4

We live in a world of turmoil and war, desperately in need of hope . . . . the hope that can only come through knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Can you share that hope with someone today?  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. . . ”  I Peter 1:3

Questions to Share:

1. What difference has the understanding of Christ’s resurrection made in your life?

2. Who could you share with about Christ’s atonement for our sin made possible by His death on the cross followed by His resurrection?

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“Haven’t you read,” He (Jesus) replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” — Matthew 19:4-6

Covenant. Commitment. These are words we share in the Christian church, and in the Christian marriage.

And sometimes, as a time of remembrance and renewal, couples will recite their wedding vows again to each other . . . as a sign that “what was true then is still true now.” Perhaps even more so.

Sometimes couples will mark a special anniversary with the renewing of their vows. Sometimes before deployment. Sometimes after deployment.

A church in Michigan recently had a ceremony attended by couples who wanted to renew their wedding vows. The words which the pastor (Pastor Mark Haines of Bay City Wesleyan Church, Bay City, Michigan) wrote and the attendees recited are as beautiful and true as any I have ever read. Shared by Bob and Cheryl Moeller on “Marriage Minutes,” the write-up was entitled, “Three Things Your Spouse Needs to Hear and You Need to Say”:

I Did
At our wedding ceremony, I chose you to be my spouse.
I promised to live with you according to God’s holy Word.
On that life changing day, I promised to love you,
to comfort you,
to honor and keep you.
I swore to stand by you
for better or worse,
in sickness and in health.
At our wedding I renounced all others
and promised to give myself to only you, so long as we both shall live.
The pastor said, “Will you take this one?”
And I did.
I Do
Today, I choose you to be my spouse.
I promise to continue living with you according to God’s holy Word.
On this ordinary day of our life together, I promise to keep on loving you,
to keep on comforting you,
to keep on honoring and keeping you.
Today, I am standing by you
for better or worse,
in sickness and in health.
Today and every day, I renounce all others
(no websites, no magazines, no videos, no lingering leers, or secret meetings).
I give myself to you and only you, so long as we both shall live.
People may ask, “Will you take this one?”
And, you must know, I do.
I Always Will
Tomorrow and everyday God gives us, I will choose you to be my spouse.
I will continue living with you according to God’s holy Word.
Every day we share by God’s grace, I promise to always love you,
to always comfort you,
to always honor and keep you.
As long as I have breath, I will stand by you
for better or worse,
in sickness and in health.
I will always renounce all others
and always give myself to only you, so long as we both shall live.
Our great-grandchildren may ask, “Will you take this one?”
And, you can count on this, I always will.
I did.
I do.

I always will.
Your spouse needs to hear these 3 things and you need to say them as you gaze into his or her eyes.


Wow—I find this to be powerful.

Another beautiful renewal ceremony for military comes at the end of the HomeBuilders Bible study Making Your Marriage Deployment Ready. Called the “Marriage Commitment Ceremony,” the vows recited are:

“Believing that God, in His wisdom and providence, has established marriage as a covenant relationship, a sacred and lifelong promise, reflecting our unconditional love for each other and believing that God intends for the marriage covenant to reflect His promise to never leave us nor forsake us, We commit our lives to be faithful to each other during the unique challenges of military service and beyond . . . to seek God’s help in order to finish strong, standing firm on the vows that we made on our wedding day, and on the Word of God which gives us the blueprint for this commitment.”

Perhaps this is a day for you to say these words to your spouse. Perhaps there is a day in the future, Lord willing, when you can say these words to your spouse—or you can say them to each other.

I pray so.

Work Cited:

Bob and Cheryl Moeller, “Marriage Minutes,” Wednesday, February 22, 2012.

Q & A With Pastor Mark Haines

Montgomery, Mike and Linda and Keith and Sharon Morgan, Making Your Marriage Deployment Ready (Little Rock: FamilyLife Publishing, 2008), p. 95.

Questions to Share:

1. Pray that the Lord will give you wisdom as to how you may use these vow renewal ceremonies in your own marriage.
2. Consider writing your own renewal of vows which might speak directly to what you and your spouse share in your commitment to each other.

St. Patrick’s Day

Written by Linda. Filed Under Lessons from History

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world?  Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. 1 John 5:4, 5

No doubt you associate March 17th each year as St. Patrick’s Day, as I do. For as long as I can remember, the date set aside to celebrate St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, has been a day dedicated to the wearing of green, to decorating with leprechauns and shamrocks, and to holding parades in locations where many Irish have settled.

But little did I know that March 17th is also a holiday because of a military victory. We’ll get back to St. Patrick—because that’s a very important story—but so is Evacuation Day. If I’ve done my homework right, Evacuation Day was the day in the Boston area when British General Sir William Howe led his troops onto their ships and left the city for Nova Scotia. The Continental Army, under the new command of General George Washington, strategically occupied Dorchester Heights overlooking Boston Harbor. Fortifications were built with artillery equipment captured at Fort Ticonderoga, and the British realized that their position within Boston was indefensible. Fearing a defeat similar to Bunker Hill, General Howe decided to evacuate, ending an 11 month siege of the city. Boston was never attacked again by the British, and this can be considered Washington’s first victory of the Revolutionary War. The password for the day in General Washington’s Continental Army encampment was “Saint Patrick,” and March 17th was declared an official holiday for Suffolk County, Massachusetts in the early 1900s.

With the story of St. Patrick we find another victory, but of a different sort. His is the story of victory over bitterness, victory over the lies of a pagan culture, and, as Thomas Cahill in How the Irish Saved Civilization would even say, the victory over illiteracy and ignorance which would preserve writings so important to us today, including the Bible.

Patrick was a young man of sixteen years when kidnapped from his home in England around 400 A.D. and taken to Ireland. There he was sold to a chieftain who forced Patrick to tend his sheep. It was during this captivity that Patrick remembered his Christian upbringing, which he had formerly rejected. As he wrote in his Confessions, “I would pray constantly during the daylight hours” and “the love of God . . . surrounded me more and more.” His understanding and love for God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit grew during these lonely years of survival in the cold, rain, and snow. His writings do not show bitterness, however, because he used his time to grow in new love and faith. After six years as a slave-shepherd Patrick escaped and returned to his home in England, a changed man.

Feeling called to return to Ireland and proclaim the Gospel to the pagan and barbaric culture which he had left, Patrick began to study and prepare. Eventually he was ordained as a priest, and then a bishop. When he did return, he brought new hope to the land where he had been held captive, all because of his bold and faithful proclamation of Jesus Christ as Savior of the world. He even used the shamrock to explain the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He served in Ireland for 29 years, baptizing thousands and planting hundreds of churches. Besides individual lives redeemed, their new Christian faith gave the Irish people a revived love of learning—which then fostered literacy. The Irish monks were instrumental in copying books, including the Bible, which were in danger of being looted and destroyed during the final days of the Roman Empire as it crumbled.

This is a quick summary, no doubt, and there is much to appreciate in the legacy of St. Patrick. Although accounts of his biography differ in details, there seems to be little disagreement as to his passion to evangelize the people of Ireland because of his love for them and his love for our Lord. I am particularly inspired by his deep prayer life, and am touched by this writing called “The Breastplate,” attributed to St. Patrick:

“Christ be within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ inquired, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”

March 17th is a day to celebrate victory, whether Evacuation Day or St. Patrick’s Day. The ultimate victory is through Jesus Christ, and as Christians we celebrate His life in us every day of the year. Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:56-58)

Resources:

Apostle to the Irish: The Real Saint Patrick by Charles Colson
Patricius: The True Story of St. Patrick by David Kithcart
Who Was the Real St. Patrick? by Deacon Keith A. Fournier
Saint Patrick from Wikipedia
Evacuation Day from Wikipedia
Service of the Scribes: How the Irish Saved Civilization, March 16, 1998 of Prison Fellowship

Questions to Share:

1. Why do you believe Patrick did not become a slave to “victim-hood” and refuse God’s call to return to Ireland as a missionary?

2. What lessons can you learn from St. Patrick regarding personal victory over unfair treatment?

« go backkeep looking »