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Posts Tagged ‘family’

hallelujah-in-hand

Christmas is a few days away, but many may not feel like celebrating this year.  When a family member has died and Christmas is just around the corner, singing and rejoicing can easily feel out of place.

It is natural to feel a deep and prolonged sense of sadness when a loved one has died.  It is also easy for Christmastime to be an emotional roller coaster due to the many memories a family had with their loved one.  If a person is experiencing sadness, crying frequently, or feeling uncomfortable around others, attending a Christmas service may not seem like the right answer.

I encourage you to make time and space for God even in your sorrow.  If it is listening to a favorite Christmas hymn, lighting an advent candle, reading Scripture, or offering prayer share time with God this Christmas. This time can be in a public setting with other believers or privately at home.  Even a cold and broken hallelujah is an offering of love and devotion that God will hear.

In time, your song will change. The healing heart of God is there to strengthen and guide you through the difficulties of today.  Make time to connect with our Heavenly Father.  The peace of God is always there to restore, heal, and provide.

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give thanks

Happy Thanksgiving to all our troops!  It doesn’t matter where you are today, know that we are thankful for your service, sacrifice, and dedication.  We are also thankful for the military families who support you and your loved ones at home.

Most of all we give thanks to God.  There are everyday blessings that we often overlook.  They become common place in our lives, but today we focus our attention on all that you have done and provide.

May our prayers and actions this day celebrate the gracious love of our Creator.

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Your soldier finally made it back from the deployment.  The homecoming ceremony is over.  The banners and bunting are put away.  The confetti is gone.  Your warrior is home with 90 days of leave.  Now what?

Here are a few tips on how to handle your soldier at home.

Communicate like a couple.  This will be rusty at first.  You have both changed during the deployment.  You are more independent and your warrior still needs to adjust back into the family.  Remember that you will hear lots of military jargon and abbreviations.  They will make no sense to you whatsoever.  It is okay to turn your head and say, “I don’t know what you just said.  Did you just speak in Martian?  Is that some kind of Army lingo you picked up during the deployment?”  Be ready for the soldier to talk like a soldier.  Sentences may be short and choppy.  In return, speak up when that occurs.  Remind your warrior that you were not down range.  Apply grace and compassion in moments like this.  Listen to the war stories and remind your soldier to hear the home stories as well.  Show love through humor and sharing.

Reunions take time.  Once the soldier is home, it will take time to reconnect.  You cannot flip a switch and return your family to 2011.  Expect things to go well.  There is normally a honeymoon period where everything is perfect because the family is back together.  This can last a couple of days or a couple of weeks.  It is different for each military family.  In time, challenges will start to surface.  The kids will act up during the worst possible time.  The dog will get sick.  Conversations turn into arguments.  Tempers will flare.  Snippy comments are exchanged and suddenly our once happy couple stops using titles like dear, baby, honey, or sugar toward each other.  Don’t growl at each other.  This is when you adjust to new roles and routines.  How did things function during the deployment?  Share what a typical day looked like and how the family needs to function.  Make the adjustments necessary.  Gradually, the new normal will be established at home, but prepare for a couple of kinks in the line.  Remember to demonstrate patience with each other.

Keep your activities.  Keep the fun events and activities that got you through the deployment.  Don’t give up the good stuff that kept you sane during the last year.  Several spouses will join a gym, have a girl’s night out with FRG friends, start a hobby, or join a book club.  Don’t throw them out because your warrior is home.  Likewise, soldiers may have taken college classes, maintained a fitness routine, attended Bible study, or enjoyed a movie night with battle buddies during the deployment.  Soldiers and spouses should keep the good stuff from the last year, but remember to maintain a balance.  Make time for each other and your family.  Don’t let activities and events get in the way of your reunion.  Protect the good stuff in a healthy way.

Each time I came home, my wife was very patient with me.  We felt that the second deployment was easier in some ways because we knew what to expect.  But there were different challenges from the first go around.  Military families need to know that every deployment and homecoming is different.  The issues that military families face are complex and varied.  Don’t expect the first to be like the second.  Make time to attend your reintegration briefings or Yellow Ribbon events.  They will offer practical ways to help you and your funny talking soldier.

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Chaplains are pretty busy during Annual Training season in the National Guard.  Tuesday I gave another suicide prevention class.  It’s a requirement that Soldiers get the presentation at least once a year.  The training focuses on the magnitude of the problem, how common issues can drive anyone to the point of despair, and that everyone can watch out for your battle buddy.

While many try to pin the Army suicide issue on multiple deployments, the majority of issues that drive people to suicide are common issues:  failed relationships, financial difficulty, and legal woes.  These are typical factors that we see in the civilian population, at schools, in factories, and even in the church.  PTSD is a factor in military suicide, but it is not the top issue that Time magazine or other media outlets want you to believe.

The fundamental issue to remember is that everyone can save a life.  You probably survived a breakup, be it in high school, college, or at work.  You probably understand what it is like to bounce a check or have a tough time making your paycheck last the entire month.  We are all in the same boat.  We all have the life experience necessary to help people at risk of suicide.

Remember and apply ACE: Ask, Care, Escort.

If you believe that someone is at risk of suicide, ask him/her about the problem.  Find out what is going on in the person’s life.  Directly ask if he/she is thinking about suicide.  Care by listening to the issue.  Find out what is causing the pain and suffering.  Why is the Soldier upset?  Finally, escort the Soldier to a resource.  That can be a chaplain, a medic, a counselor, an NCO, a friend, or a family member.

Don’t leave the person alone.  Make sure that he or she gets help.  It is okay to call a suicide hotline or wake up a supervisor, just don’t ignore the warning signs.

You don’t have to be a mental health counselor to apply ACE.  You don’t have to be an expert.  But you can practice these basic steps in suicide first aid.  Do your part to reduce suicide and help your friends.

If you need immediate assistance these suicide hot lines are always available:

Military One Source – 1.877.995.5247 or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1.800.273.TALK (8255).

 

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Each Fourth of July we celebrate the birth of America.  We celebrate freedom, independence, and the precious rights that guarantee the blessings of liberty.  But it is important to remember how religious freedom was the original goal of living in our land.  And by that, I mean prior to signing the Declaration of Independence.

Christianity operated in a very different environment from what we know today.  Prior to the Pilgrims leaving England, there was no separation of church and state.  There was one official church for people to attend and the King was the head of the church.  During the 1600s, British law required citizens to attend worship services.  Those who did not attend would be fined one shilling for each Sunday and holy day missed.  People who conducted unofficial church services could be fined, jailed, or executed.

As persecution and arrests grew, the Pilgrims left England for Amsterdam.  By 1617 the congregation was stable enough for another, more permanent move.  They wanted an enduring place where opportunity and religious freedom could be secured for their families.  They turned their eyes to the new America, braved a sixty-five day voyage across the Atlantic, and started Plymouth Colony.

Days after sighting land, The Mayflower Compact was established as a way to honor God, guarantee just and equal laws in the colony, and create a free form of government.  The Pilgrims decided to establish a system where every member of the colony could enjoy guaranteed rights and freedoms under majority rule.  Freedoms that they were unable to enjoy until that very moment when the ink was dry.

Their voyage and vision created the first written constitution on our continent.  It became the seed of American freedom and democracy.

We often forget the past difficulties that Christians have faced trying to worship God.  We also forget the difficulties in our present age.  We have been so blessed with liberty in our nation, that we forget the inequalities that exist elsewhere.  While we are not fined, jailed, or executed for practicing our faith in America many others suffer across the globe.  We have brothers and sisters in Christ who live with the same fears, torment, and punishments of seventeenth century Pilgrims.

Recognize the incredible gift we have as Americans and utilize your religious freedom.  Glorify our risen Savior in song.  Strengthen your faith in a worship service.  Read your Bible in public.  But also take time to pray for the persecuted Church beyond our borders.  Their current plight was ours not so long ago.

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I love lemonade.  There is nothing like a glass of lemonade during the summertime.  It’s the best you could ask for.  A cold glass of lemonade hits the spot after mowing the yard, walking the dog, or just relaxing on the porch.  This amazing drink will immediately satisfy me, draw a thirst quenching “aaahhh” from my mouth, and deliver a toothy smile to my face.

Sure there are different kinds of lemonade out there.  You can get lemonade in an Army mess hall or even a Navy galley.  But I’m talking about the good stuff.  The lemonade recipe that your grandmother used.  You know what I’m talking about.  A recipe with real lemons, sugar, and plenty of kick.

My wife and I recently went to a Chick-fil-A and ordered lemonade with our meal.  We didn’t know what to expect of the drink.  Would the lemonade be a watered down version or something that tastes too syrupy sweet?  The sign said it was made-from-scratch daily, so we decided to take a chance on their lemonade.  We were both amazed.  It was absolutely fantastic!  It had to be one of the finest lemonades out there.  Where had this been all of my life?  Why didn’t anyone tell me that Chick-fil-A lemonade tasted so good?

To say that I was surprised by their lemonade would be an understatement.  I had been settling for something less, when this recipe was clearly better.  This discovery became our new gold standard when it comes to lemonade.  No longer will we settle for something less.

God understands good lemonade.  He gave humanity a recipe to follow regarding life.  He knew that this recipe would satisfy us, quench us, and make us smile.  This recipe is the finest out there.  In fact, it is the perfect recipe.  It is the gold standard of recipes.  But some folks wanted to make their own recipe.  They wanted different ingredients and proportions in the mixture.  They were willing to settle for a recipe with less because it was something that they had made.

Romans 1:25 shares that people exchange the truth about God for a lie or “the” lie depending on your translation.  This passage tells how people “worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator . . .”  This lie is about self.  I know better.  I am more important.  I will do whatever I want.  The rules don’t apply to me.  In essence, I will follow my own recipe.

Folks have the choice to follow their own recipe in life.  Perhaps they didn’t know just how satisfying God’s recipe is for us.  But when you taste and discover how incredibly satisfying it is, you won’t settle for less.  May God bless you and your pursuit of His righteousness, His recipe for your life.

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The Joint Chiefs of Staff have recently outlined new policies to deter sexual assaults in the armed forces.

One of the major changes will happen at basic training for new recruits in every service branch.  New recruits will receive training on sexual assault policies within their first two weeks on active duty.  Making sure that recruits are educated on right conduct and appropriate behavior will go a long way in the force.  This prevention and education effort should be viewed as an important step in reducing sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military.

Additional policy changes include ensuring that sexual assault cases are handled by officers at the Colonel or O-6 level, and forming a new Special Victims Units across each service branch in order to better investigate assaults and bring more perpetrators to justice.  Cases will no longer be dropped by low-level commanders who can prevent investigations from moving forward with flimsy excuses.  Cases will instead move past the local unit level and be pushed up the chain of command for investigation by senior officers.

While these changes are new and still being fine tuned for implementation, I hope that advocacy efforts will also be a part of the equation.  All of the services need to provide high levels of support through unit victim advocates, sexual assault response coordinators, medical services, legal representation, and counseling.

Veterans and service members can make confidential reports to a chaplain, healthcare provider, sexual assault response coordinator, or victim advocate.  If you need help or have questions you can call 877-995-5247 or click www.safehelpline.org for additional resources.

 

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