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Posts Tagged ‘army’

Memorial Day 2017

arlington

While many consider this weekend to be the official start of summer, it has a very different purpose. Memorial Day is set aside to honor those who died in service to our nation.

An estimated 7,000 American service members have died in combat since 2001. That huge number represents the greatest sacrifice that one can make. They counted others greater than themselves. They stood up to fight for a cause. They died so that someone else could live.

In John 15, Jesus teaches his disciples to, “love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Selfless service and sacrifice are not words to idly throw around. They demonstrate the love of Christ, the one who was crucified for the entire world. His example shows the tremendous love of heaven. His example shows how much he values us. His example shows how deeply he cares for you and me.

When someone dies in our place, as a substitute, we should take note. It is humbling. It is loving. It is the ultimate sacrifice that one can offer.

As conflicts continue across the globe, let us remember those who have died so that we may live. Take time to remember those who protect our freedoms. Remember to pray for our service members, their families, and our nation.

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4-chaplains

On the morning of February 3, 1943, the U.S.A.T. Dorchester, a converted cruise ship, was crowded to capacity with 903 service members, including four chaplains. The Dorchester, was moving steadily across the icy waters from Newfoundland toward an American base in Greenland.  It was struck by a torpedo and began to rapidly sink. Panic and chaos had set in on the ship. The blast had killed scores of men, and many more were seriously wounded.

Quickly and quietly, the four chaplains spread out among the soldiers. There they tried to calm the frightened, tend to the wounded, and guide the disoriented toward safety. By this time, most of the men were topside, and the chaplains opened a storage locker and began distributing life jackets. When there were no more life jackets in the storage room, the chaplains removed theirs and gave them to four frightened young men.

As the ship went down, survivors on nearby rafts could see the four chaplains–arms linked and braced against the slanting deck. All four voices were heard offering prayers until their last moments of life.

Today, a grateful nation remembers Chaplain George L. Fox, Chaplain Alexander D. Goode, Chaplain Clark V. Poling, and Chaplain John P. Washington for their heroic deeds as soldiers and spiritual leaders.

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soldier-praying

My first deployment was to Iraq in 2006. It made several things clear. Before Iraq, my faith was comfortable. It had been tried, tested, and proven, but in a very clean and simple way. My faith was comfortable in seminary, at home, at work, and in the church. But that all changed in Iraq. I saw what it was like to constantly be under attack and understood what it was like to be under the threat of death. Iraq gave me something that most Americans do not experience. Iraq also gave me something that most Christians in the western world do not experience. Iraq changed me, but it also changed my faith for the better.

One of the major discoveries from my time in Iraq was truly learning the power and importance of prayer. While seminary gave me the tools and the knowledge regarding a solid prayer life, Iraq was the furnace that forged my prayer life into a solid existence.

Here are four lessons on prayer that helped me down range.

Share your heart. Be transparent with God. Big or small, lift your prayers to the Lord. The night before flying into the combat zone, I spent two and a half hours in prayer. This was the longest span of time I had ever spoken to God in one setting. I had a lot of ground to cover if this was potentially my last night on earth. Cry out no matter what the concern may be. Philippians 4:6 reminds each of us “. . . in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Pray now, not later. Be immediate with prayer. Time is precious, especially in a war zone. If someone shared a prayer request, my new practice was to stop and immediately pray with the person. The location may be on the sidewalk, in the parking lot, at the chow hall, or in the office. There was no reason to wait and the soldier had a need that deserved to be addressed. Hebrews 4:16 shares, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Keep it simple. There is no need to be fancy. Wordsmiths have their place, but not on the battlefield. I felt God calling me to pray for aircraft, well the crews and passengers on board. I crafted a simple three point prayer to say every time I heard a helicopter or aircraft departing the base. Jesus reminds us not to have babbling prayers in Matthew 6:7. Prayers are not heard for the sake of many words.

Have a consistent pattern. My routine was very disjointed in Iraq. The start and end of every day lacked consistency. Unit operations had to happen 24 hours a day and the war didn’t stop. The best time to pray was right before I went to sleep. I could make time to pray once my boots came off. It took a while to find that right recipe, but once I found it the routine stuck. Find a time or habit that can help you make space for prayer. Colossians 4:2 encourages us to, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”

There are many lessons a veteran will find down range. Theses lessons can benefit our Christian walk. The trials of yesterday make us stronger for tomorrow. May God grant us the calling of Romans 12:12, to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.”

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world-trade-center-9-11-crossHeavenly Father and Precious Lord, we seek you and your healing mercy.

As fifteen years pass, we remember the pain and suffering of a horrible day. We remember the loss of life, the destruction, and the chaos of that fateful morning. Sorrow remains. Grief returns. Heartache and despair weigh us down.

Almighty God comfort and calm our souls. Turn our hearts into an altar where healing can take place. Transform our spirits into a place of peace. Allow restoration and redemption in our lives. We are a people who need you and your presence.

Give us strength to perform your will. Allow us to move forward as a renewed people. Keep us bold, strong, and true. Just like clay on the potter’s wheel, shape us and mold us into a new creation, one that continues to show your glory.

As conflicts remain and others begin, protect our warriors in harm’s way. Guide their way and direct their steps. Comfort the families who are divided by war and give them the strength necessary for every day apart. Minister to their needs and surround them with your love.

Lord, hear our prayer. We are a nation and a people who need you. Allow us to feel your healing mercy through our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

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purple heart

The Purple Heart Medal is the oldest award given in the US military.  It was established by General George Washington on August 7, 1782. Washington originally called it the Badge of Military Merit and personally awarded three medals during the Revolutionary War.

Today, we recognize Purple Heart recipients as heroes. The medal is awarded for being wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States.

The Purple Heart differs from most other decorations in that a person is not “recommended” for the decoration; rather he or she is entitled to it because of wounds received in battle.

It is truly humbling to consider that someone is willing to die for me. These men and women are living examples of that sacrificial spirit.

As we remember Purple Heart Day, may we focus on the 1.7 million combat-wounded recipients and the sacrifices that they have made for our nation and our freedom.

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prayer invite

A Kansas City, Kansas police officer was shot and killed on Tuesday. Police Captain Robert Melton was 46 years old. He gave 17 years of service to the Kansas City Police Department. He also was a veteran of the Kansas Army National Guard, who served in Afghanistan.

He was a dedicated servant who deeply cared for others. He understood the meaning of sacrifice and service. He lived out a calling to help people in distress even if it put his own life in peril.

Pray for his family and friends, the KC police department, and the Army community. Ask that God would comfort the friends and family of Captain Melton and strengthen them for the days ahead.

 

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Sacrifice

 

I met a soldier last week. He just moved to Kansas after a three-year tour in Germany; Wiesbaden, to be specific.

My mind immediately filled with questions to ask about his time in Germany. You know, the typical questions that we all ask. What did you like about the town, the people, the food, the sights, and the weather? After a little thought, I asked my first question.

“Wow. Three years in Germany. What did you enjoy the most?”

His response was a telling reality that often goes untold.

“I didn’t spend three years in Germany. My unit went to Afghanistan the first year. I was in Germany with the family the second year. And the third year, I went back to Afghanistan. It sounds funny, but I’ve seen more of Kandahar Providence over the last three years than my duty station in Germany.”

I admired the sacrifice that he made. His three-year assignment yielded two years in a combat zone and one year with his wife and kids. He had surrendered something valuable so that others could benefit. He endured hardship so that others could find comfort and peace. He was willing to die so that others could live.

It is inspiring when a soldier is willing to sacrifice for his countrymen; it is overwhelming when we consider the deep love of Christ. Jesus willingly went to the cross, suffered incredible pain, and died for our benefit. He bled and died so that all of mankind could live.

The obedience, action, and ultimate sacrifice of Christ showed just how valuable we are to him. Through his obedience, we see a caring God. Through his actions, we find the depth of his love. Through his sacrifice, Jesus said that we are worth dying for, despite all of our imperfections, wrongs, and mistakes. Romans 5:8 says, “… while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Christ did not see us as a lost cause. He saw us as individuals worth dying for and became our sacrifice. May we continue to see the perfect love that sent our Savior to the cross on our behalf.

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