A devotional to help military families stay connected during deployments

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?

An Impact Statement to Remember

Written by Chaplain. Filed Under Lessons from History

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“. . . Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” — Joshua 1:9

Father Joe O’Callahan, a professor of physics and mathematics at Holy Cross College, was compelled into service during the early stages of World War II, as his missionary sister was at risk during the occupation of the Philippines. That inspiration led to his commissioning as a chaplain in 1940 and eventually his wartime service aboard the USS Franklin. During an attack off the coast of Japan, Chaplain O’Callahan risked his life by organizing damage control parties and care for his sailors. From these actions and injuries, Father Joe inspired others and became the first Navy chaplain to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Chaplain O’Callahan’s official citation for the Medal of Honor reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as chaplain on board the U.S.S. Franklin when that vessel was fiercely attacked by enemy Japanese aircraft during offensive operations near Kobe, Japan, on 19 March 1945. A valiant and forceful leader, calmly braving the perilous barriers of flame and twisted metal to aid his men and his ship, Lt. Cmdr. O’Callahan groped his way through smoke-filled corridors to the open flight deck and into the midst of violently exploding bombs, shells, rockets, and other armament. With the ship rocked by incessant explosions, with debris and fragments raining down and fires raging in ever-increasing fury, he ministered to the wounded and dying, comforting and encouraging men of all faiths; he organized and led firefighting crews into the blazing inferno on the flight deck; he directed the jettisoning of live ammunition and the flooding of the magazine; he manned a hose to cool hot, armed bombs rolling dangerously on the listing deck, continuing his efforts, despite searing, suffocating smoke which forced men to fall back gasping and imperiled others who replaced them. Serving with courage, fortitude, and deep spiritual strength, Lt. Cmdr. O’Callahan inspired the gallant officers and men of the Franklin to fight heroically and with profound faith in the face of almost certain death and to return their stricken ship to port.[4]

But Chaplain O’Callahan’s impact statement did not stop here. Throughout his life as a professor and a chaplain, he inspired others in a way that is often overlooked. His life directly influenced two other Medal of Honor Recipients, 1st LT Powers USMC and CAPT Kelly USN, and a Silver Star recipient, 1st LT Mullany.

What is your impact statement? What inspiration are you sharing?

Let us pray. . .

Lord, We thank you for the inspiration from the mentors and teachers in our lives. As we have been blessed by them and by You, help us to look beyond the bulkheads of our lives.

As we strive to seek You first, may we also find the “hatches, hanger bays and elevators” that place us upon the “flight decks” of our life.

As we strive to serve our fellow man, may we be more than just “A global force for good.” May we be a local motivating force for others. May all those who come behind us find us faithful.

As we strive together, may we become our brothers’ keeper; may we become that iron that sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17), and allow others to rest when they are weary.

As we stand our watches and our flight ops become rack ops, may we awake to fight the good fight. Amen.

Work Cited:

Chaplain O’Callahan’s Medal of Honor Citation: http://www.history.army.mil/html/moh/wwII-m-s.html

Questions to Share:

1. Is there someone you remember who inspired you to bravery?

2. How do you want to be remembered by succeeding generations?

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

I’ve been working on this writing for the last eight years. And it’s not done yet.

I wanted to put down in writing, on “cyber-paper,” what I have lived and observed for most of my adult life. It’s what I love about our military . . . the people, the mission, the life.

The truth is . . . as members of the United States military, people are watching you. In the airports, in the community, in churches, and on TV, people see you who are in uniform, and your families, and admire you:

  1. They are watching your family teamwork. A military family and circle of friends takes care of each other in the good times and the bad. Especially when you’re overseas, friends become “family.” People see this and admire the sense of unity.
  2. They are watching your sense of purpose. There is a “calling” and significance in what you do . . . it’s not just another “job.” People see this and admire the sense of nobility.
  3. They are watching the way you honor others. You celebrate the history of your service branch; you tell the stories of those who have gone before you in battle; you salute; you give awards to those who serve well; you remember. People see this and admire the sense that bravery and courage are valued.
  4. They are watching the way you die. Some things are worth dying for—and freedom is one of those things. People see this and admire your sacrifice.
  5. They are watching your compassion. You layer your body with fighting equipment but stop to pick up a child or animal that needs your help. You respond to emergencies around the world providing help to those who are helpless. People see this and admire your deep compassion.
  6. They are watching your competence.  You have developed skills through training and practice with which to accomplish tasks which others dream they could do.  You seek excellence.  People see this and are inspired.
  7. They are watching your submission to leadership. Respect is given in your ranks. It’s what makes a unit work smoothly, without renegade immaturity. People see this and admire your humility.
  8. They are watching your leadership. True leaders are servants, and their character is pure. At every level in the military there are leaders, and that takes training and commitment to people and the mission. People see this and admire your professionalism.
  9. They are watching your flexibility. You are willing to move from place to place  . . . even respond to orders in a short period of time. You hold things loosely and refuse to bind yourself to things which hinder service. You come up with solutions to problems which arise with little or no warning. People see this and admire your trust and confidence.
  10. They are watching your discipline and responsibility. Your word means something. You are prompt and fit. People see this and admire your self-control.
  11. They are watching your sacrificial living. You don’t merely survive in tough times—you strive to thrive. You are over-comers!  Your family faces deployment with faith. People see this and admire your strength and perseverance.
  12. They are watching your perspective.  You understand that “in the great scheme of things” a day, a month, a year are not as important as developing relationships and nations. People see this and admire your mature focus.
  13. They are watching how you fight. Going to war takes planning and weapons, knowing the schemes of the enemy, and protecting yourself and your resources with proper armor and equipment. People see this and admire your wisdom.
  14. They are watching your patience.  Years of training. . . and then waiting . . . and more training.  Waiting for shipments, housing, promotions, orders, appointments, re-deployment.  In this age of instant gratification, people see this and admire your patience.
  15. They are watching your camaraderie. In this “dog eat dog” world, they see how you work together and serve others . . . and how veterans look back on their memories of military service . . . and they admire your brotherhood.

Are there spiritual lessons in this list?? You bet. It is no surprise to me that I have found many Christians serving in the military. The qualities of unity, nobility, bravery, courage, sacrifice, justice, ethics, hope, authenticity, patience, kindness, persistence, valor, humor, competence, purity, obedience, hospitality, integrity, gratitude, generosity, duty, perseverance, concern, humility, submission, mercy, servant leadership, honor, resilience, discipline, perspective, responsibility, teamwork, help, grace, compassion, faith, professionalism, trust, confidence, self-control, forgiveness, strength, maturity, wisdom, brotherhood . . . are the righteous values which our Lord and Savior had in full measure and to which we are called.

Thank you for your service to our country . . . and to our Lord.

Questions to Share:

1. Are there any other attributes which you would add to this list? Please comment and let me know.
2. Which virtues on this list have you seen demonstrated in the military? Which ones do you believe you demonstrate?
3. Thank your spouse for those character qualities which you know they have and use.

Open Heart Surgery

Written by Linda. Filed Under Marriage & Family

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

the-marriage-miracle-cover2Some Pharisees came to Him to test Him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” He 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.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.” — Matthew 19:3-8

Read that passage again—what was the reason that Jesus gave for the allowance of divorce? You might be surprised. . . I was. The one reason why Jesus said that Moses allowed divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1) was because of the hardening of hearts.

Perhaps your answer to that would be, “There are lots of reasons why people get divorced. You can’t narrow it down to just one. And besides, marriage and divorce are topics that people write books about! Too much for one devotion!” So true—and so it is that I can mention one such book, and worthy of our attention.

It’s called The Marriage Miracle: How Soft Hearts Can Make a Couple Strong, by Bob & Cheryl Moeller. I can only share a small portion in this writing, but there are priceless nuggets in this book—from the Bible—which would cause us to perhaps re-think what happens when a husband and wife dare to “give up,” or grow cold towards each other. And what I found especially interesting in this publication was that marriage was not the only application of the book’s principles . . . any relationship is subject to one or the other becoming hard-hearted. So in a broader context, this book zeroes in on truth for us all. Having problems with relatives? with co-workers? with neighbors? maybe even fellow church members? We are all subject to becoming hard-hearted, even cynical, towards others, married or not.

In Chapter Four of the Moeller’s book I found a list of euphemisms which are commonly used by couples (even ones dealing with deployment) . . . phrases which reveal that their hearts have grown hardened towards each other:

1. “We have a failure to communicate.”

From the book: “Couples who can’t quit bickering often use this as their excuse. Actually, couples who constantly pick at each other are often surprisingly clear and precise in their communication. Each understands exactly what the other person is saying.” (p. 79-80)

And from God’s book, the Bible: “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’” (Mark 7:20-23)

2. “We don’t share the same values.”

From the book: “The reason many couples claim they cannot get along is that they just don’t share the same core beliefs and convictions. Again, we beg to differ. The reality is not so much that a Grand Canyon-sized gulf exists in their values system, as much as they have hardened their hearts and chosen to disagree as a way of life. The root cause is an inner decision to reject the other person from the heart.” (p. 81)

From God’s book, the Bible: “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others.” (Philippians 2:1-4)

3.“We’re no longer the same people. We’ve changed and grown apart.”

From the book: “It sounds convincing at first, doesn’t it? Not really. It’s total and complete jive. A more honest statement would go like this: ‘We have each hardened our hearts toward each other, we have no intention of changing, and we’re looking for a good excuse to get out of this marriage.’” (p. 83)

From God’s book, the Bible: “But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15)

4.“Hey, I didn’t mean anything by that. I was just teasing. You’re way too sensitive.”

From the book: “A hardened heart is often disguised as a sarcastic tongue. You hear them all the time—the jibes and put-downs people make about the person they are married to. Yes, the one-liners can be funny. But when one or both spouses trade verbal barbs all day, it’s a sure sign something deeper is wrong.” (p. 84)

From God’s book, the Bible: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come from your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

5. “You make me so angry!”

From the book: “The truth of the matter is no one can make us do something we don’t want to do, including getting angry—not unless they have a gun pointed at our head. When we accuse someone else of making us angry, we are really saying that we’ve chosen in our hearts to get angry, and they are the excuse for doing so. . . Anger management doesn’t make any more sense than hate management or lust management. You don’t manage sin, you get rid of it.” (p. 85)

From God’s book, the Bible: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” (James 1:19-21)

Perhaps you see your marriage, or a friend’s marriage, in any or all of those statements. “So what?” you ask, “We know there are issues!” The question then is, “What next?”

Solving a problem starts with identifying the problem . . .then admitting your part in the problem . . .then taking steps to change, not your spouse, but you. The Moellers write, “When God does open heart surgery, the patients are never the same.  He replaces their heart of stone with a heart of flesh—and a marriage is transformed.”  (p. 124)

Since this is a particularly lengthy posting, this is a good place to take a breather!

And when you continue on in The Marriage Miracle: How Soft Hearts Can Make a Couple Strong you will find:

—the stages of a hardened heart. . .I (Linda) am reminded of the old adage of “hurt people hurt people” and Oswald Chambers’ insightful statement on the discipline of disillusionment, “Most of the suffering in human life comes because we refuse to be disillusioned” (The Place of Help, p. 1000);

—the impact (on yourself & others) of making the choice to soften your heart rather than harden it;

—the importance of an examination of the true condition of your heart;

—who is the Great Cardiologist, the Great Healer, the Great Physician . . .God;

—how God demonstrates unconditional love to us by His forgiveness, His mercy, and His grace through His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ;

—how and why we need to demonstrate and extend those same gifts to others;

—the value of a simple prayer like, “Lord, please help me to love my spouse even more than I do now. Please help me to be the husband/wife I should be”;

—the beauty of brokenness which leads to confession;

—what “oneness” in marriage really means;

—how a transformed heart is filled with God’s Holy Spirit;

—the battle of temptation and how we fight;

—what to do when only one heart is softened in a marriage—this is so important, especially in parenting, even when divorce takes place; “While it may seem discouraging and even foolish to keep our heart softened toward our spouse when they fail to reciprocate, it’s actually a winning game plan. It sets us up for a closer fellowship with God, it models the behavior that will give our children an edge in life, it will teach us valuable spiritual lessons, it will invite unexpected blessings from God into our life, and ultimately it will be the most powerful tool God can use to soften our spouse’s heart.” (p. 155)

—the role of the church in helping hurting marriages;

—freedom from regret over past mistakes;

—prayer, praise, and purpose and how they are victors in the battle against pride;

—the legacy of a lasting marriage.

Is that too much? My toolbar says that my “word count” is too high today, but there is much to think about. Let me close with three Bible verses:

For nothing is impossible with God. — Luke 1:37

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. — Ezekiel 36:26

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. — Psalm 139:23,24

Work Cited:

Chambers, Oswald, The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers (Grand Rapids: Discovery House Publishers, 2000).

Moeller, Bob & Cheryl, The Marriage Miracle: How Soft Hearts Can Make a Couple Strong (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2010).

Questions to Share:

1. What value can you see in preparing your heart for the challenges of deployment by first examining your heart attitude towards your spouse?

2. I often hear from military couples that they grew closer during the deployment . . .but the opposite is sometimes true. How can you maintain oneness with your spouse, even when you are miles, and months, apart? Read “The Paradox of Drawing Together While Apart” on Excellent or Praiseworthy, 9/1/08: click here

Fighting the Loneliness

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

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Fight the good fight of the faith. —  I Timothy 6:12

My husband returned four months ago from a year-long deployment to Afghanistan. This was our first deployment, and we were stationed in the United Kingdom when he was given the orders. We quickly had to decide whether I would stay in the UK or return to the States to be closer to family while he was gone.

My husband thought I would be happier being close to family, but I felt the Lord telling me to trust Him and stay in the UK, even if it meant I was going to be alone. This was a hard decision because I felt I was staring my biggest fear right in the face—I was going to be left alone in a foreign country while my husband went to war. Scary!

As my husband and I prepared for the deployment, and throughout the deployment, God was constantly reminding me of His precious promise in Deuteronomy 31:8 that He would never leave me nor forsake me. I needed to know that, and it was such a comfort to me.

Also, in Psalms 139:1-18, I was encouraged by King David when he cries out to God saying:

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.
You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

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.

If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’
even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!  How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake, I am still with you.

This was such a comfort to me. Even when I felt lonely, God was always with me. The remembrance of that strengthened me.

Everyone experiences loneliness at one time or another. Because of the demands of the military life, military spouses experience the weight of husbands or wives leaving for duty on orders. The family is left to find a “new normal” while a very important part of the family is not physically present. Besides deployments and TDYs, moves can leave us in unfamiliar surroundings and with unfamiliar faces—and later having to say “good-bye” to those same faces. The military members, too, go all over the world to serve in detrimental environments, always meeting new people and doing new jobs. So how do we cope with the potential loneliness that comes with this lifestyle?

We do not need to be afraid of being alone—nor is this feeling of loneliness uncommon. When experiencing these feelings, we should do what King David did many times—cry out to God. This “man after God’s own heart” (I Samuel 13:14), who often experienced war and was often “deployed” to fight for his people, writes over and over in the book of Psalms about being lonely as he turns to God for strength: “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted . . . Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you” (Psalm 25:16, 20-21).

Our year of deployment was the hardest time of our lives so far. But we learned valuable lessons. We grew closer to God and we grew in our marriage. We met great friends and we served those God placed around us. I found comfort in knowing feeling lonely was not abnormal. And most importantly, I found comfort in God and knowing that He promises to always be with my husband and with me. I may have felt physically alone, but God was always with me.

If you find yourself fighting loneliness, turn to God’s word for encouragement and guidance first. Pray for God to place people around you who can be a support system. Also, pray for people whom you can serve. Serving others always helps us think less often about our circumstances and focus on helping others. Be ready for God to answer those prayers!

No matter where we go in the military—and no matter where our spouses go—our God is always with us. God knows you and He made you. He has placed you where you are for a reason. What a promise that is to us in this military lifestyle!

Questions to Share:

1. When have you felt the most alone?  What did you do to fight the feelings of loneliness?

2. How can you encourage each other during deployment when faced with loneliness?

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Editor’s Note:  Thank you for your patience while we were having technical difficulties. After eight years of no problems, this was a surprise and a challenge.  Fortunately it is all fixed now–for which we are very grateful to God!   

“I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” — Jeremiah 32:27

Have you ever wondered. . . .

Where in the world did we get the idea that sin has no consequences?

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” — Galatians 6:7.8

Where in the world did we get the idea that celebrities have all the answers to life?

“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.” — 1 Corinthians 3:19

Where in the world did we get the idea that biblical roles of manhood and womanhood are out of date?

“. . . .each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” — Ephesians 5:33

Where in the world did we get the idea that nothing would ever go wrong in life?

Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” — John 16:33

Where in the world did we get the idea that when there is a time of trouble in a marriage that the only answer is divorce?

“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

Where in the world did we get the idea that “if I have my health, I have everything?”

“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” — 1 Timothy 4:8

Where in the world did we get the idea that “the one who dies with the most toys wins?”

Jesus said, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?”— Matthew 16:26

Where in the world did we get the idea that there was no hope for PTSD sufferers?

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:. . . .A time to kill and a time to heal . . .” — Ecclesiastes 3:1-3

Where in the world did we get the idea that God is not with us downrange, or at home?

“Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? To be out of your sight? If I climb to the sky, you’re there! If I go underground, you’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute—you’re already there waiting!”— Psalm 139:7-10 (The Message)

Where in the world did we get the idea that “fooling around” is okay because “everyone is doin’ it?”

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” — Hebrews 13:4

Where in the world did we get the idea that there is no such thing as absolute truth?

“Jesus answered, ‘. . . . In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’” — John 18:37

Where in the world did we get the idea that nothing good for my family can come out of being separated by deployment?

“. . .but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” — Romans 5:4,5

Where in the world did we get the idea that the Old Testament isn’t relevant?

“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 3:16,17

Where in the world did we get the idea that God cannot heal a broken marriage?

“Jesus looked at them and said, . . . . all things are possible with God.”— Mark 10:27

Where in the world did we get the idea that the purpose of life is to be happy?

“And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” — Micah 6:8

Where in the world did we get these ideas? Answer–In the world. . . .

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.”— 1 John 2:15-17

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

So when you are faced with a situation, where do you look for answers?  Be careful not to just rely on your own thoughts and feelings, perhaps influenced by well-meaning friends or relatives whose suggestions might be “worldly.”  “My buddy says I should ________.”  “My sister thinks that I should _______.”

What does God say you should do?  Truth is in His word, the Bible.

“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.” — Proverbs 3:5,6

Questions to Share:

1. What situation are you facing right now for which you need God’s guidance?

2. Pray for God to guide you to trust Him for direction.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” — John 21:21,22

As noble and mature as military couples are, there is a fiery dart which Satan can fire straight from his arsenal into their hearts. It is the dart of discouragement, and I believe it is Satan’s favorite weapon.

Oftentimes discouragement comes from a season of comparison—never a good idea to compare yourself, your marriage, your kids, your career, your possessions, your struggles, your purposes, with others. But we all do it. Sometimes we actually believe, “The grass is greener”—but it isn’t.

Sometimes I hear things like, “Deployment is difficult being at home with four kids to take care of!” followed by, “Just four kids? I have six!” Or “These deployments are killing me. I’ve been gone from the family for six deployments in ten years!” followed by, “Only six deployments? I’ve been coming and going with deployments for years with only a few days home a month!”

And the challenges of deployment are not the only basis for comparison. Pastor Stephen Davey of Colonial Baptist Church in Cary, North Carolina, suggests this common list:

And the list can go on and on. There are thousands of issues that are between the believer and His Lord.

The truth is that comparison is a deadly game. And we see Jesus cutting it short in Peters’ life when Peter asks Jesus to consider his future as compared to John’s. “What about him?” Peter asks of Jesus in regards to John. And Jesus says, “ . . . what is that to you? You must follow me.” Jesus’ challenge to Peter is strong—to keep his focus on the Lord, not on the “other guy”.

Pastor Davey gives five “prescriptions for unhealthy comparison” in his sermon entitled, “Snooping . . . Comparing and Other Natural Diseases.” They are simple and truthful—and worth repeating as a means to encourage all of us. Pastor Davey says, “I want to offer the antidote for these diseases (comparison, meddling, snooping). I want to prescribe the biblical cure. I want to supply the prescription for unhealthy comparison.”

1. “Prescription number one is to recognize that God made you for a unique purpose. In other words, face up to who you are!”

2. “Prescription number two is to remember that God created other people for their unique purpose. In other words, face up to who you are not!”

3. “Prescription number three is to recognize that the object of your human comparison is a human being.”

Pastor Davey continues with this “prescription” by adding, “We mentally build all of these greener pasture myths about someone else’s ability, someone else’s walk with God. We perceive that certainly their lives must be happier, easier, richer, and more bearable. We imagine that their lives must be short of heaven.

No! The truth is, the greener grass on the other side is just as hard to mow!

Paul tells us, in II Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 12, ‘When you compare yourselves among yourselves, you are not wise.’

You are comparing clay pots with clay pots—big deal!”

4. “Prescription number four is to realize that human comparison will always produce spiritual diseases.”

Discouragement, pride, envy, hatred, fruitlessness, defeat—cumulative and compounding symptoms of the disease curse of comparison.

5. Fortunately there is a final antidote. “Prescription number five is to readjust your sights so that they are no longer earthly, but heavenly.

This last prescription points us to the answer found in Hebrews 12:1-3, “ . . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith . . . so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Not looking side-to-side in comparison, but ever forward . . . pushing ahead with resolve and faith, knowing your identity in Christ and knowing His faithfulness.

This reminds me of an Old Testament passage when King Jehoshaphat was faced with an overwhelming enemy force. He prayed, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” (II Chronicles 20:12)

There was victory from God for Judah in that story, just as there is victory for Christians who continue to face each day and each trial with their minds set not on earthly comparisons, which can discourage and defeat, but only on the incomparable heavenly glory of Jesus Christ.

So the next time you are tempted to compare yourself, your life, or your challenges with others’, remember to consider your uniqueness and worth; remember the uniqueness and worth of the other–and their own human frailties; remember the dangers inherent with comparison; and remember to look to Christ alone for perspective and hope.

And instead of giving in to the temptation of “one-ups-manship” in the trials of deployment, ask your friend or acquaintance or even your spouse, “Deployments can be challenging for both of us.  How can we pray for each other during deployment?”

Work Cited:

“Snooping . . . Comparing and Other Natural Diseases” sermon preached by Pastor Stephen Davey on April 30, 1995, at Colonial Baptist Church in Cary, North Carolina.

Questions to Share:

1. The old hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” concludes “Turn your eyes upon Jesus; Look full in His wonderful face; And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.” What people or things have you been focusing on—comparing yourself with—that have caused you to become discouraged?

2. Read Psalm 145. Name five characteristics of God for which you can praise Him. How can thinking about the greatness of God cause you to put life in perspective?

3.  Ask your spouse how you can pray for them this week.

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