A devotional to help military families stay connected during deployments

Jesus at Your Wedding

Written by Mike. Filed Under Marriage & Family

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready.” — Revelation 19:7

It was five years ago that my husband and I closely watched two weddings—one on TV and the other through photos on Facebook. One, a royal wedding, costing millions of dollars and the other probably less than $200. Both couples deeply in love and truly committed to each other; both weddings in churches; both military couples with obligations to duty; both brides beautiful and both grooms handsome; both families excited and happy for the couples.

With the images of the two Christian ceremonies in mind, I was impressed by what Bob and Cheryl Moeller wrote in their “Marriage Minutes” shortly thereafter.  Their article was entitled “Invite Jesus to Your Wedding—Goals for Your Wedding Day.” If you are planning a wedding, or helping to plan one, perhaps these ideas might help to make it a sacred event with God’s presence in mind:

“1. We will make our wedding a worship experience by making Jesus the very first person we invite.

2. We will resolve to make it a worship service, rather than a production.

3. We will set our goal to be married, not just to get married.

4. We will praise the Creator, rather than calling attention to us.

5. We will set a budget to honor God rather to impress people.

6. We will publicly honor our parents and grandparents.

7. We will remember it is Christ, not the pastor who really marries us.

8. We will call attention on our wedding day to our true future hope – the second coming of Christ (the wedding supper of the Lamb).”

Item #3 is a goal that will take you past your wedding day and into each day of your lives together.  Our prayer is that you seek to honor God in your marriage . . . and not just at your wedding.

Work Cited: from “Marriage Minutes” by Bob and Cheryl Moeller, May 2, 2011, on www.forkeepsministries.com

Questions to Share:

Also from the Moeller’s “Marriage Minutes”:

1. “Will people remember Jesus more than the two of us when the day is over?

2. Is the presence of Christ truly welcome in all our festivities including the reception?

3. Will the people who attend catch a glimpse of heaven?”

There’s More to Success

Written by Chaps. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3,4

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry.” Whatever our role, our position, our organization—we should strive to be the best.

Agreed. But what if there was more . . . ?

Don’t all people essentially want the same things? And, in part, don’t we all on some level deeply desire to be successful? I would say, “Yes!”

When people think of “success,” we frequently assume professional development or promotion, superior financial security, nicer “stuff,” good reputation among peers and colleagues, and the quality of relationships we enjoy. I think we would agree this is a fair representation of elements of success. So you say, “Okay, Chaps, we got it. So where are you going with this?”

Hmmm . . . .what if the previous portrayal of success was an incomplete model? What if there was a key ingredient missing from our construct of success? What if the missing piece to our assumed construct was so evident that when I tell you, you will at once respond, “Of course!”

You and I are obsessed with love for numero uno, i.e., “me, myself and I.” Human beings are impulsively self-engrossed. Success is conventionally viewed as something “I” achieve and therefore “I” experience.

What if true success was only achieved in community, as we help others reach and become successful themselves? What if success was inherently attached to the process of “less of you and more of others?”

I believe we were fashioned with the desire for significance. But to be wholly human and satisfied in life, God hard-wired people to serve others with the same pre-conditioned vigor. Here are some thoughts to consider:

I find great hope and assistance in the Scriptures because they consistently run contrary to what comes naturally to “me!” The message of Scripture time and again challenges personal assumptions I hold dearly about life. Scripture keeps me honest—so does my wife—by reminding me: “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others” (I Corinthians 10:24).

How different would the quality of our lives during deployment be if we aligned ourselves with this one principle and actually sought to think of others first—their needs, their struggles, their interests, their pursuits for significance?

Questions to Share

1. How did you get to where you are today? Who was instrumental in helping you achieve a degree of success in your life? Have you thanked them recently?

2. How are you naturally inclined to take care of yourself at the neglect of others?

3. What specific steps can you take to begin to include “othering” at a deeper level in your life? Who do you need to initiate a relationship with and help them achieve success?

“Super-Glue” for the Home

Written by Linda. Filed Under Marriage & Family

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. — Colossians 1:17

The story goes something like this: A military family has just arrived at their new duty station. They’ve settled into temporary quarters and have begun to look at housing options. The mother takes one of the little children with her to the commissary where the commander’s wife spots her and decides to check on how the family is doing. In the course of the conversation, she asks, “Have you found a home yet?” The child answers, “Oh, we have a home—we just haven’t found a house to put it in!”

There’s a lot of truth in that statement! The military family, at its best, is indeed a unit. And whether they are at an assignment for quite a length of time or are moving from place to place as duty demands—they cling to each other. They’ve learned to exercise flexibility and resilience, made possible by that wonderful WD-40 known as “sense of humor” combined with a hopeful attitude.  They extend grace to each other, knowing that the challenges of war-time duty can bring us all to the point of being “frazzled.” And they encourage each other to get through any and all situations.

What else can we say about the military family “unit”? This is the perfect time to answer this question, because last week on May 6th was Military Spouse Appreciation Day–always the Friday before Mother’s Day.

Each family is unique, but there are seven common elements which we can examine:

1. The family works as a “location” unit: When do we move? Where do we move? Do we move back to family-of-origin during deployments, or do we stay at the base/post for support? Do we buy or rent? Which school district do we want to live in? Do we live on base or in the local community? Do we try to stay together during an “unaccompanied tour,” even if it means that we are non-command sponsored, or do we stay state-side during the remote tour? The military family must consider these options, and which is best for their individual circumstances.

2. The family works as a “vocation” unit: Is this assignment necessary for a career opportunity, or would it be best to stay put? Does the at-home spouse work outside of the home, or stay-at-home? Do we need extra training, which might cost more money, to get expertise in a new area in order to provide for the family long-term? Do we need to consider home-schooling of our children because of location constraints or travel opportunities?

3. The family works as a “logistics” unit: How much furniture do we put in storage? Which car do we ship overseas? What cell phone plan gives us the best ability to communicate? Do we want to buy new appliances or used ones? How much money should we budget for the deployed spouse to have to spend? Are wills, powers-of-attorney, and insurance papers all up-to-date—with computer passwords shared? Do we have a list of emergency phone numbers available? Do we have a list of “go-to” people for home and auto repairs?

4. The family works as a “consistency” unit: Who is available to keep and explain medical records to each “new” doctor or medical facility at each move, or at each visit? Who knows special educational needs for each child, which must be followed at each new location? Who in the family is responsible for what chore? How do we communicate best with each other—by email, phone, letter? Are we consistent in letting each other know what is happening, offering help, meeting needs. . . . so that trust is built into our family? Who handles discipline of the children during deployments–and how?

5. The family works as an “attitude” unit: Is each new challenge viewed as a crisis, or an opportunity to see God at work? Does the family walk a walk of faith. . . or of fear? Is the cup half-empty, half-full, or overflowing? Does cynicism reign, or confidence? Are our expectations of each other and each new situation in line with reality? Do we build each other up, or tear each other down? Do we have the attitude that each one of us is precious in the sight of God, or a burden? Is patience demonstrated? Is perspective put into each situation—that certain trials and troubles are for a season? Is the attitude of gratitude “built into” each day?

6. The family works as a “traditions” unit: Have we built into our family certain holiday traditions that provide security when everything else might be different? When half of the boxes are unpacked after a move, but the first batch of cookies comes out of the oven—does that signal that we are “home”? Is there a favorite movie, a favorite game, a favorite vacation spot. . . that holds memories which can be re-visited and provide enjoyment? Does the family traditionally look into the history of the new area into which we move? Are there patriotic traditions which continue in our family? Are successes or accomplishments celebrated a certain way—no matter what? Do we have devotional time once a day, or prayer time together, that happens everywhere we live?

7. The family works as a “loving” unit: Are mistakes met with blame or forgiveness? Is growth in knowledge and wisdom the desire for each family member? Do we listen to each others’ frustrations, and dreams? Are we quick to criticize, or quick to cheer-lead? Does compassion and understanding rule the day, or bitterness and resentment? Is selfishness what we demonstrate, or can we serve each other daily, in humility? What church do we “plug into” in order to demonstrate spiritual gifts, worship, listen to sound-teaching of the Bible, and serve our Lord? Is gratitude expressed daily—for every breath and for every blessing? Is appreciation for each family member spoken and/or written? Are we kind to each other?

In so many instances it is the military spouse that holds these units together. The military spouse is the “super-glue,” the “home front,” the one who balances work and family demands, the “keeper of the stuff and the schedule,” the one who provides that all-important consistency, presents a positive attitude, keeps family traditions alive, and loves loves loves. If there were an official song for a military spouse, it would be “You are the Wind Beneath My Wings.” Most often, the military spouse is the Mom, but sometimes the Dad. . . . while other times both Mom and Dad are active-duty and must gently juggle (sometimes not so gently) all plates which are spinning a hundred miles an hour! Communication and cooperation must be at the forefront in order to keep the whole thing from falling apart!

But Who holds the military spouse together? And Who ultimately holds every situation, every decision, every circumstance, every family together–the real “super-glue”? For that we turn to Colossians 1:15-20 for this beautiful description of Jesus Christ, which includes: “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (vs. 17) From the tiniest particle within the atom, to the grand expanse of the universe, Scripture tells us that Christ is supreme. And further in Colossians we find my favorite marriage and family verse: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14)

Is Jesus Christ supreme in your home? Do you, as a family, go to Him in prayer and Scripture study for wisdom regarding assignments, career decisions, management of possessions, health care, attitudes, traditions, and how best to demonstrate love to each individual in the family?  Is your relationship with Jesus Christ the foundation for your relationships with others?

Take the time today, to voice your appreciation for your spouse and all they do to serve you, your family, your community, your country, and your Lord! And thank the Lord for the precious gift of your spouse!

Questions to Share:

1. In what ways does your family operate well as a unit?

2. In what ways does your family not operate so well as a unit?

3. Pray for the Lord to hold your family together during this deployment.

Mother’s Day Perspective

Written by Linda. Filed Under Marriage & Family

Editor’s Note:  This devotion was originally posted on May 6, 2010.  Since then, our son has completed two combat tours and returned.  He will soon be deploying again.

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

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

When I face some new challenge in my life—even potentially scary—one thing I seek to do is to gain perspective. The ground under me might be shaking, but I’m trying to hang onto something solid . . . . something that will help me to make sense of it, help me to remember that I’m not alone, help me to realize that it’s not forever. You know—perspective.

This Mother’s Day I join the ranks of millions of mothers who have gone before me, saying good-by to their sons and daughters and sending them off to war. Today my son is deploying to Afghanistan.

In the past I have seen my brother off to the jungles of southeast Asia—and my husband off to the airfields of the same. Later, good-byes became common during our military career (love those Hellos!) . . . . but I had always heard that feelings are different when it is your child leaving. I think that’s true. I need perspective.

So here are some of the things that I remember when I try to steady myself with some solid perspective:

1. Our God is sovereign and He is good. The Bible teaches that it is our triune God who rules and whose power is always and ultimately good. Because I love Him, and submit to His plan, I trust Him to love and care for my son in foreign lands. I believe God answers prayer, and we will continue to pray unceasingly throughout this deployment. When I remember this, it helps.

2. The many times my husband and I were geographically separated—during wartime and peace-time, God faithfully provided comfort and strength for us. I can look back at all of the “crises” we endured through those years and can see the hand of God as He guided us through every situation. When I remember this, it helps.

3. I grew emotionally and spiritually the most during the tough times in our marriage—even during deployment. It was during just such a lonely time that I became a Christian! I can’t make this deployment “easy” for our son and his family, but I do know that they will grow in faith as they will lean on God for courage, strength, and endurance. When I remember this, it helps.

4. Our national cause is just. Fighting the global war on terror is necessary, and all of you who are battling the terrorist enemy are providing the hope of security in a very insecure world. Nations are being built . . . . freedom established where there was none. Future generations have you to thank for maintaining order in these tumultuous times. When I remember this, it helps.

5. Our military units are well-trained and well-equipped. My son and his unit have been training for this for years. They are ready. He is ready. And his unit has been careful to prepare the families for the deployment separation—which is something I really appreciate. The leadership has made sure that paperwork, communication, supplies and plans are in place and in order. When I remember this, it helps.

6. Our son has tremendous support. Their church, base, unit, neighborhood, friends and relatives . . . . are all standing by to help he and his precious family in every possible way. I have already mailed off his first batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies, and no doubt there will be many more care packages sent by me and others. When I remember this, it helps.

7. Lastly, it helps when I remember that other mothers have been through this in the past . . . . and their words encourage me. I particularly enjoy reading the letters written during former wars. A favorite collection of 365 wartime letters is found in Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from The Civil War.

Here are some of the letters or diary entries written by mothers (North and South) in the Civil War:

“ . . . . and I fervently implore my God and my Redeemer to protect and save you in the day of battle, and to encourage your heart and hearts of our commander and all of our noble company, and to strengthen your arms for the conflict . . .” p. 158

“ . . . . it is a consolation to believe that my sons are in the hands of a merciful God. I hope and pray that they may be permitted to return home, if consistent with the Lord’s will, I pray to God every day in their behalf, it is a trial to me, but I pray that our Country may enjoy peace and be independent.” p. 167

“I think too much of my sorrows and too little of my blessings, truly God has been very kind to me, and though he has sent trials to me, yet how do I know but that if it had not been for them I should never have tested the sweetness of God’s mercy.” p. 275

And I also love this diary entry recorded on Sunday, April 3, 1862, by a private in the 100th Pennsylvania Volunteers. This young man’s mother raised a fine son:

“Slept very little last night, although it continued to rain. Woke about daylight, took up my Bible and read awhile before I got up. I make it a rule to read a portion of scripture every day, although I cannot have any set time; have to be guided by circumstances in a great measure, but always try if possible to read a chapter just before going to sleep. It would be very hard indeed to endure the separation from those that are dear were it not for the consciousness of being in the line of duty, and that God Rules; and that he doeth all things well. Oh how comforting the thought that we have such a God to go to . . . .” p. 101

Mother’s Day is a special time to remember—our own mothers, our dear children, our good friends, our great nation, and our faithful God. We have much for which to be grateful. When I remember this, it helps—and I have perspective and hope.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”  — Psalm 91:1,2

Work cited:

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

Questions to Share:

1. What encourages you during deployment?

2. With your experience, how can you encourage others who are facing deployment?

No Regrets!

Written by Chaps. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

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

I sought the LORD, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears. — Psalm 34:4

We have much in common on board the ship. It wasn’t that long ago we left our friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, spouses, children, and the dog—thousands of miles behind. So, what now, Chaplain? I’m so glad you asked . . . .

As a Chaplain, one prevailing question I hear and frequently consider is this: “Where is God during deployment?” “Does God’s presence exist on a warship or in the sand of Afghanistan?”

The Scriptures teach God is omnipresent, meaning He is everywhere. In addition we recognize God inhabits His believing followers via His Holy Spirit. But for many of us the presence of God just doesn’t voyage with us—He stays back home or port-side with our families. Let me explain. . . .

As I reflect about God’s presence on a war ship, I consider what “types” of people likely constitute a ship—specifically what is the composition of individual spiritual journeys and experiences. I came up with four distinct categories which might help us consider why we often leave God behind and in port. Take a moment with me to see if you can locate yourself in any of the suggested caricatures. I found parts of me and my life experiences all over the place!

Category #1—“No Time for This!”—This group has absolutely no capacity for the spiritual realm—zero, nada, none!  Now, don’t get me wrong, these are good people and great Sailors. . . .but even receiving an article from Chaps makes them uncomfortable. They silently wonder, “Why doesn’t he just go away. . . .” They may even question why a Chaplain would embark a war ship—but that’s a great question for another day. Most likely, they’ve already deleted my article with one quick stroke of a key and moved on.

Category #2—“The Real World”—This group possesses a cerebral reliance upon God which they can philosophically verbalize with great skill and expertise. They have come to an “understanding” with God—something like “You don’t mess with me and I won’t mess with you.” This position closely resembles an ol’-fashioned Texas stand-off.

Category #2 agrees the spiritual realm is necessary. But, when pressed, they find it hard making the connection between the divine and daily, real-world practical stuff of life. From their vantage point, their personal experience reinforces the assumption that God feels distant, unrelated to their life and impotent over life’s complexities.

Category #2 lives in the fast-lane of vain control—doing what “I” need to do to get “it” done. “You know how it is, Chaps, the only person I can rely on and trust is me!” They conclude, “If this were a perfect world, God would be a nice idea; but, this is a harsh, bitter world we live in! So let’s get on with reality . . . I don’t have time for a bunch of feel-good, idealistic religious emotionalism!”

Category #3—“Multiple Personalities”—This group is genuinely dedicated to a system of faith that is real to them, but incompatible to their assortment of “personalities.” When home, they frequently attend church services with their family, volunteer, and even give thanks before meals. From all peripheral appearances they are collected and well-meaning religious folk.

To make matters more complex, they privately commit before leaving home that “this deployment will be different.” However, for a variety of plausible reasons, they routinely forget and leave their value system behind on the Pier. As the ship pushes off, their sincere devotion quickly fades and slips into the depths of non-existence, only to reappear on the voyage home.

Category #3 has become skilled at deception and living comfortably within their own inconsistencies. The dichotomy of their two approaches is disturbing because they are intuitively aware the two totally distinct personalities conflict. They justify what has now emerged as a “lifestyle” suggesting, “I’m not this way at home with my family. . . .so, it’s okay.” But deep down they doubt the validity of their own argument.

Category #3 swiftly asserts they’re not proud of who they are or what they’ve become. “But Chaps, this is the military! It is what it is . . . .” The implication is deafening: They rationalize that spiritual people cannot and will not be effective in this military culture. In their mind the split personalities are now completely justified.

In Category #3’s consciousness, they know their “arrangement” is not compelling. And to make matters worse, they battle internally for something new because deep down they’re convinced of only one truth: They’re not satisfied! Category #3 silently longs for something richer, more fulfilling, and rewarding.

Category #3 is exhausted by the emotional gymnastics and finds it difficult to develop a cogent, clear program for moving forward. They are stuck in a bad cycle, and they know it. Rather than torment themselves with thoughts of yet another failed attempt at change, they resign themselves to suppress the sentiment for change deep down into their being and quickly move on. They convince themselves to be content living as one trapped between two worlds. God forbid anybody would ever find out what they really think. . . .

Category #4—“Isolated & Alone”—This group lives with a single reality each day—being committed to their faith makes them a secluded minority who is often professionally and socially marginalized. They diligently seek opportunities to practice and apply their faith regardless of the level of acceptance in their particular environment. They read their devotions on a routine basis, attend services, volunteer, and look to apply their faith in meaningful ways.

“Chaps, what’s the problem with this group? Isn’t this what you want. . . Man, you’re not happy with anybody!” Well, let me explain. . .

This group lives in the awkward tension of the inner-personal. They silently struggle with the dominating and crippling thought: “I’m all alone here.” As they examine their peers, they are conflicted by one prevailing thought: “I’m an oddity; quickly fading, and living on the verge of extinction.” To make matters worse, they secretly speculate if living their faith consistently is really worth it. They’re frequently lonely, disenchanted, and socially isolated from others. They want to make a positive spiritual contribution but don’t see a lane for that to occur.

Conclusion—Well, that concludes my brief synopsis. Now you might be thinking: “Wow, this article is very judgmental and assumes a lot about people.” But I’m only familiar with these categories of people because I’ve been all of them at one time or another! Does that surprise you?

Ultimately these categories describe my own journey and experience with God. I’ve been them all! How about you? Were you able to locate yourself?

I was once completely out of sorts with God and saw no real practical role for Him in my life. Honestly, most Christians were just a nuisance to me. I would privately reflect: “I know God’s real, but so what? Who cares? He has made no visible or tangible difference in my life or the lives of others. So why waste my time?”

I could see no outlet for me to express my faith that made sense to me. Then, as life’s circumstances began to churn around me and situations became more challenging, I grew closer to God—more accepting for the ways I could meet Him in church, prayer, and even in the fellowship of people with true faith. Knowing He loved me and wanted the best for me I made room for my gracious God who became central in my thinking and experience . . . .even while I was bombarded by life’s pressures and demands. I was not alone. . . .and my faith was deepening in joy. Hope and peace became my companions as my personal relationship with Jesus Christ became the anchor for my soul—and the assurance of eternal life with Him became my perspective.

Looking back with more than twenty years of hindsight on my faith journey, I can say (without reservation) it has been the best journey of my life. I have absolutely NO REGRETS! How about you?

Questions to Share:

1. What is this deployment was as much about your spiritual life as it was the military?

2. What if strengthening your personal spiritual life would actually improve your professional work and bring greater satisfaction to your life? Why would you resist that . . . ?

3. What is God was attempting to use situations or people around you to get your attention . . .? Do you see any evidences of God working in or around your life? If you look closely, I would suspect you would quickly find Him.

4. What one character flaw hinders your life most today? What will you institute that will help you to improve? What’s your motivation for changing or working on “you”?

Through It All

Written by Linda. Filed Under Spiritual Training

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” — Isaiah 43:1b-3a

God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, is reassuring the Jewish people that He alone is their God and that they should not fear pagan invaders—that He is with them. Just two chapters prior to this verse you will find the oft-quoted Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” In chapter 43, Isaiah’s writing states that God is not only with them, but will see them through.

There are several definitions of the word “through”—“in one side and out the opposite” and “from the beginning to the end of”, depending on the context. How do we get through deployment? How do we get through the waters of discouragement? through the rivers of loneliness? through the fire of fear? The same God who is in me (the Holy Spirit) is the one who will get me through. And I will get through because of faith.

It is a beautiful thing to see a couple get through something that challenges them in every area of their lives (like a deployment)—and because of faith they do not give up. When the deployment is over, they can look back over the months of discouragement/loneliness/fear and say with confidence, “My God took me through this.” And what if things did not go easily—struggles with children/finances/ temptations/health? I have seen God give grace, forgiveness, redemption, comfort, patience, mercy, discernment, strength, wisdom, perspective. . . . LOVE. Faith to persevere and endure is ours. . . in abundance, but only because of the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes it is only a step at a time, a day at a time (or an hour at a time). . . .but God is there to walk beside us or to carry us. Sometimes we endure because someone gives us a word of encouragement—at just the right time. Sometimes we read a truth from the Word that speaks to us—at just the right time. Sometimes we see beauty in nature, music, the smile of a child. . .and our hearts are lifted. Sometimes a friend or battle buddy comes along to help us—at just the right time. Sometimes we are given an opportunity to help someone else going through the same trials—and we are strengthened in the process. Sometimes we are reminded of His faithfulness in the past, and that encourages us in the present to give us hope for the future. All of these provisions are gifts from the Lord and demonstrate His love for us.

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

When I think about the word “through”, and how (because of God’s power) we can get through difficult times, I am reminded of the song Through it All. In 1975 the songwriter, Andrae Crouch, was recorded singing it at a Billy Graham Crusade. Here is the link in YouTube. Listen carefully and you will hear that the last verse of the song is:

“I thank God for the mountains,
And I thank Him for the valleys,
I thank Him for the storms He brought me through;
For if I’d never had a problem,
I wouldn’t know that He could solve them,
I’d never know what faith in God could do.
Through it all, Through it all,
I’ve learned to trust in Jesus,
I’ve learned to trust in God. Through it all, Through it all,
I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.”

From start to finish, God can get us through. In our society of “quick fixes” and “instant gratification”, our military members are showing the world what perseverance developed during the testing of faith looks like. With God’s help, you are the example of how to go through hard times and come out victors. Your faith in your families, your battle buddies, your friends, your leadership, your training, your mission, and your God are an inspiration to all of us, and give us all hope.

There is another definition of “through”, and it is “because of,” found quoted above in Romans 8:37. So let me close with one of the most well-known of Scriptures that uses this other definition of “through.” “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) To God be the glory!

Questions to Share:

1. What inspired Andrae Crouch to write Through it All? (answer in the video link)

2. Can you name one thing in the past that God has gotten you through as a couple, and how He did that?

Hope as a Last Resort

Written by Linda. Filed Under Marriage & Family

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

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

“I’ve given up hope for our marriage! This Bible study is my last resort. I’m signing us up and we’ll be there at the Chapel for the meeting, but if this doesn’t work—I’m outta’ here!” I heard these words of despair over the telephone from a military wife several years ago. “No pressure,” I thought. Fortunately, it wasn’t up to my husband and me who facilitated the HomeBuilders Bible study—it was up to God.

We serve a very big God. Do you think that sometimes we forget that? In one of our favorite crisis marriage books, Before The Last Resort, the author, George Kenworthy writes, “Your view of God is critical to your view of His ability to make over your marriage.” (p. 30)  Dr. Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, is known for saying, “We can trace all of our human problems to our view of God.”  If we think that God is small and powerless, we will have big problems. If we know that God is big and all-powerful, we will have small problems. Do you believe this?

The first chapter in Before The Last Resort is “You Gotta Have Hope.” People quit on their marriages when they have lost hope. So if you’re headed towards “the last resort,” consider making a stop and looking around for some hope. We serve a God of all hope—“with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Why did you lose hope? Was there someone who convinced you that your marriage was not going to make it? In our experience, people oftentimes base their attitudes on what they are hearing from the people they choose to hang around with. Who are you listening to? In the movie Fireproof we saw this vividly portrayed. Caleb listened to his father and to his friend and co-worker, Michael, both Christians. They gave him hope—they pointed him to truth in God’s Word, and they told him stories of how God had worked in their marriages. These men spurred him on—encouraged him not to give up. Catherine, on the other hand, was listening to negative voices—friends who urged her to leave her husband, and another man who wooed her with flattery. At one point Catherine was confronted by an older, wiser lady from her church, who spoke truth with love. Catherine didn’t want to listen.

In the end, God brought Caleb and Catherine back together through a powerful journey of forgiveness, obedience and perseverance. Their story (the movie Fireproof), on DVD, is available to give you hope. Also, books like Before the Last Resort provide you with stories of “hopeless” marriages which change through the power of God. Would that cause you to see that there is another option beside divorce? Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, but God is in the business of saving and strengthening marriages—even during war-time with multiple deployments.

George Kenworthy writes in the introduction to Before the Last Resort: “I realize you may have already given up hope. But, I challenge you to dare to hope again as you and I begin an adventure to discover what can happen when we say yes to the power of Jesus. . . . The God that chose you, who loves you and sent His son Jesus to die for you, is a God who has resources in heaven—riches, strength, power, and might—that are beyond your imagination. . . .He cares about your family, your marriage, and He especially cares about the fact that you are hurting today. Will you give Him one more chance?” (p.4)

So as you make a stop on the way to “the last resort,” let me encourage you with what we saw God do with our couple who was in crisis through our HomeBuilders study, Defending the Military Marriage. They came. . . .they participated. . . .they prayed. . . .they listened—and God did a miracle in their life. It happened during the second session when we were discussing reintegration after deployment. That had been our couple’s biggest obstacle. . .you know, the power struggle that goes on regarding “who’s in charge.” One of the other couples in our group shared their struggles with reintegration—and how they had learned step-by-step to pray, cope and overcome. Our couple in crisis looked at each other and said, “We can do that!”

Two months later, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the chaplain informed us that he had baptized our couple and their whole family. The circumstances of deployment had not changed, but God changed their hearts. While headed to the last resort, they listened to hope.

Whom are you listening to today? Are you listening to voices that would pronounce doom on your marriage? Or are you listening to truth found in the Scriptures, describing the power of our loving God:

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God. — Psalm 42:5

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I put my hope. — Psalm 130:5

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

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 5:5

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

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

Work cited:

Kenworthy, George, Before The Last Resort (Little Rock: FamilyLife Publishers, 2005 & 2008).

Questions to Share:

  1. God tells us that He can do the impossible. . . .and we have seen evidence of this in our life and in the lives of many others. Take time to consider whom you listen to for advice. Are they speaking to you of hope for your marriage? Why or why not?
  2. Pray for God to lead you to good help for your marriage—good church or chapel, good resources, good seminars, good Bible studies, good friends. Begin acting on hope for the future of your marriage. A good place to start is www.familylife.com

Praying from Head to Toe

Written by Linda. Filed Under Prayer

Excellent or Praiseworthy is posted on Monday and Thursday nights.

The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. —  James 5:16b

I attended a retreat at which the speaker introduced us to teaching on “Praying for Your Husband from Head to Toe.” Being a visual-type person, it intrigued me to think that I could move in thought from my husband’s head down to my husband’s feet and pray for his mind, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, bones, heart, hands, legs and feet. Let me summarize some of this instruction, written up originally as material from Proverbs 31 Ministries (perhaps you have seen other versions of similar writings). I believe that the same can be used by you husbands to pray for your wife. I have added the “her” and “she” in order to complement the truth contained in this teaching so that married couples can pray for each other, especially during times of geographic separation caused by deployment:

“Praying for his/her mind: Colossians 2:2-3 ‘that he/she will have the rich experience of knowing Christ with real certainty and clear understanding’

Praying for his/her thoughts: 2 Corinthians 10:5 ‘that he/she will take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ’

Praying for his/her eyes: 2 Kings 6:17,1 Corinthians 16:13 ‘that he/she may see life from God’s perspective and be on the alert for spiritual danger’

Praying for his/her nose: 2 Corinthians 2:15 ‘that his/her life will be refreshing to others, and a life-giving perfume’

Praying for his/her mouth: Acts 4:29 ‘that he/she will have great boldness in witnessing for God and that the words of his mouth and the meditation of his heart will be acceptable to God’

Praying for his/her bones: Isaiah 58:11 ‘that he will be healthy like a watered garden’ (I would add Proverbs 3:7-8: “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.”)

Praying for his/her heart: James 4:8, Proverbs 3:5 ‘that he/she will be filled with God alone and that God will create in him/her a clean heart filled with pure thoughts and right desires; that he/she will trust God will all his/her heart and not lean on his/her own understanding’

Praying for his/her hands: 1 Timothy 2:8 ‘that he/she will pray with holy hands lifted to God, free from sin, anger, and resentment’

Praying for his/her legs: 2 Corinthians 5:7 ‘that he/she will walk by faith and not by sight’

Praying for his/her feet: Psalm 40:2 ‘that God will keep him/her from discouragement and set his/her feet on a firm path'”

Let me take this thought of praying for your spouse one step further. Do this—visually step through the spiritual armor, from head to toe, found in Ephesians 6 and try to think how you could pray for your spouse as we “put on” each piece of the armor during deployment:

Helmet of Salvation—“Heavenly Father, Thank you for giving salvation because of the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross of Calvary. We know that it is His blood which cleanses us from our sin and forgives us so that we may live with You eternally. I pray that my spouse may know You and the joy of Your salvation more and more each day, even while we are apart. May the truth of that never leave their side and provide them perspective to face the demands of the hour.”

Breastplate of Righteousness—“Lord Jesus, It is Your righteousness alone that covers us and protects our hearts from eternal condemnation. May we be ever mindful of the fact that it is not our righteousness, for we have none, but your righteousness alone that assures us of a right relationship with God. Guard our hearts, as a married couple, to be ever drawn to You, not relying on ourselves or the things of this world, but on You and You alone. Provide for us the assurance of Your love and may our commitment to each other reflect our commitment to You as Lord and Savior.”

Belt of Truth—“Dear God, May we put on the belt of truth to gird ourselves with a certain knowledge of Your grace and mercy. Search our hearts and bring us to an understanding of our helplessness without Your presence and power in our lives. May we trust in You alone and seek You only for our needs. While apart from each other may we be mindful of fears and lies which would seek to draw our minds away from our commitment to each other.”

Shield of Faith—“Lord Almighty, It is faith in You and You alone that protects us from those things which seek to destroy us and our marriage—worry, doubt, guilt, discouragement, despair, disbelief. May our faith in You cause us to hold our shield with great confidence against the enemy, being obedient to Your will as the one Who made us and chose us. Please protect my loving spouse from the fiery darts which can be so painful, and keep them strong in faith while we are apart.”

Sword of the Spirit—“Awesome God, Your Word is all I need to fight the battles of this life. May Your promises come to our minds when we face trials which the enemy would use to defeat us. May we seek Your face in prayer and in day-to-day living so that Your Truth, in the person of Jesus Christ, and Your love would give us guidance, wisdom, and victory through a fresh filling of Your Holy Spirit. Thank you for the hope that Your Word gives us when times seem so tough.”

Feet Shod with the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace—“Great Redeemer, Please help us to be ready to share with others the peace that can only come from You. While we are apart, we may have unique opportunities to serve our fellow military members with compassion during their hour of great need. May we, as a couple, be prepared for those opportunities, with sure understanding of the truth of the good news of Jesus Christ and His desire for us to proclaim Your faithfulness to others who may not know You.”

The teaching on the spiritual armor in Ephesians 6 ends with this instruction from verse 18: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Pray.

Questions to Share:

1. Take time to pray for your spouse, head to toe.

2. Share with your spouse, if possible, how you have prayed for them.

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?

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