During this pre-mobilization period of training I have been away from home, but not quite gone. We have full days and busy weeks, with time off on the weekends to spend with family. This has meant a lot of extra goodbyes, and it has made the transition harder. I live far away from where the base where we train, which means I stay there during the week. I can focus during the week, but going home for the weekend means I have to switch gears all the time. It’s an in-between transition period on the road toward deployment, and I find myself withdrawn and detached at home. I miss my family and friends, but I know the mission at hand and I am focused on doing my part to accomplish the mission. I am ready to move forward toward the mission and constantly switching gears makes staying focused hard on a soldier. It’s an emotional cycle of deployment. I know things will be fine at home, which gives me peace of mind so I can focus on the mission in front of me. When the mission is accomplished over there I can come home and rejoin my loved ones at home. But until that time comes when the mission is successfully accomplished I need to be able to fully focus so that I can come home. I am blessed because I know that my family will be fine while I am gone; God has His protective hand over all of us. He has blessed me with a support group that allows me to go over with peace of mind. I am covered by so many prayers, and so are those I am leaving behind at home. With a set heart, I am ready to go and fully confident because of my God who goes before me, stands beside me and stands behind me watching my six.
Living in God’s will, living for God, begins at the moment we say “yes” to God, repenting of our sinful ways and accepting the precious gift of Jesus Christ into our hearts as our personal Lord and Savior. This relationship, like any relationship we have, needs to be maintained. How we act in other relationships often determines how our walk with God is going. Our life both inside and outside of our homes often determines what is really inside of our hearts. What happens “behind closed doors” – how a husband treats his wife, how parents teach their children – shapes a person’s walk with God.
Integrity is being able to do the right thing even when no one else is around to see you. It is the “behind closed doors” moments of life when our character is built. It is the moment when a husband and wife are arguing, but realize that they need to put God in the center and stop to pray together. It is the temptation of a parent to yell at their child for doing something wrong, but instead sits down to talk and explain the different between right and wrong. This is where godly living begins and keeping prayer central is the foundation of building a character for God that overflows into every place you go.
Prayer maintains a relationship with God, just like communication maintains every other relationship in our lives. If we don’t communicate, if we don’t pray life we should, our relationships weaken. It is still there, it will always be there, but it won’t be nearly as strong as it once was, as strong as it could be. However, strong communication builds relationships. Prayer is our communication to God. When we are strong in prayer, the relationship is strong and we are able to clearly hear God speak and respond to us. We are “in tune” with Him and are more closely able to walk in His will for our lives. His character is built into our character and we learn to walk in our destiny of living a life on earth that is more like that life Jesus lived. We are able to love more, regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in.
It starts in the home, and as the home grows stronger it overflows into our community, inside the church, and outside the church into our workplace, school, and anywhere we step our feet. Lead your household well, whatever that may look like for you to get “in tune” with God, and it will build your character more Christ-life all throughout your life.
“The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” – 1 Timothy 1:5, ESV
“It’s God’s job to judge, our job is just to love.”
Phrases like this often get thrown around in today’s culture, often as an excuse for someone’s behavior that has strayed so far off course and borders on lawlessness. I’m not talking about government laws, as those are changed all the time to adapt to the culture, but I am talking about Biblical law. It is God’s job to judge, as He gets the final say, but we don’t live that way. Judgement and hypocrisy are commonplace, even among the oft quoted phrases like the one above. Even though the Ten Commandments are in the Old Testament, they are still applicable today. They are a foundation from which our character is built as we grow and learn to live like Jesus. But we’re under grace these days, didn’t grace override the Ten Commandments? Well, yes, we are under grace when we have Jesus in our hearts and the Holy Spirit living inside of us, but we still have a Biblical law that we are supposed to adhere by. The greatest commandment, as given to us by Jesus, is that we are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-39, ESV). This command means we need to watch out for one another. If one is wandering off their path, it is the job of their brother or sister to guide them back. However, we need to do it in love, with a pure heart and a good conscience. Don’t worry about the speck in your brother’s eye when there is a log in yours. We need to keep ourselves in check before we can help our brothers and sisters. But our vision is often clouded, so we have to turn to someone else. There is One whose vision is never clouded and can see everything from any point of view. He is our Guide and our Help. We turn to God, He keeps us in check and lines us up with His Spirit. We all wander from time to time, or we get too excited and start acting on our plans without consulting with Him first. But the key to staying in line with God is communication – which means being in constant prayer. When we are in communication – prayer – with the Father we are more aware and become like Jesus. This puts us in line with where He needs us to be and allows us to be better listeners so we can help our brothers and sisters. Because of His love we are under grace, and grace is the “enpowering presence of God enabling us to be all that we were created to be and do all that we were created to do”. Live in grace today and love with a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith.
I sat down this morning with my Bible and opened it up to the passage that has been massaging my heart as of late – Psalm 121. I read the Psalm and was about to reflect on it when I realized I couldn’t remember what I had just read. I read it so fast it just blew through my head, in one ear and out the other so to speak.
This is symbolic of how I’ve been living my life lately, moving from one task to another, never slowing down. I’m getting ready to deploy overseas and my time at home is coming down to the wire, so it’s taking care of last minute details to make things as easy as possible for the family I leave behind. I’m trying to enjoy each moment, but the days are so packed full that I’m still rushing from moment to moment. And this morning my life of rushing through moments spilled over into my time with my Father, the most precious moment of any day I get to spend.
I set my Bible down, closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I sat in the silence of the moment before praying.
Quiet my soul and still my mind. Nothing else matters right now because I am with You. Everything else can wait. You are my First Love and I need You before I can do anything else this day, I give You time before anything else. Remind me of these moments – our moments – each day and quiet my soul before You. I want more of You, my Father. The rush of life can wait when I am with you.
I never got back to Psalm 121 this morning. Instead, I just sat in the Presence of my Father in the quiet of the room. He held me there and I didn’t let go. It was a refreshing and strengthening moment as He let me rest in His arms. He took my to-do list from my hands and held it in His. He didn’t give it back, and I didn’t want it back. I am on His schedule, not my own. He places me where I need to be at the right time – His time.
Take a moment today and just be still before the Father. He wants your time so He can lead you in the direction He wants you to go, the direction You need to be going. Let Him lead you today and see what He will do to put you at the right places at the right times. You will be surprised and thankful at what He does and who He causes you to meet.
I had just turned 12 the day America was attacked. I was naïve to the world, having just started 7th grade in the “big school” and trying to find my place among my friends and classmates. But on September 11, 2001 I realized that the rest of the world was a lot closer than I thought.
I was in band class when the announcement came over the PA system – we had been attacked. We were playing “Phantom of the Opera” and I was on drums. We paused for the announcement and stood in awe for several moments afterward. There was no television in the band room. Not wanting to scare us, our band teacher had us continue playing for the rest of the class, but it had a different tone to it. We were all distracted, wondering what these attacks meant. Why did they happen?
When the bell rang we made our way to our next class – Spanish class. There was no Spanish being spoken that day. The television was turned on and our teacher had tears streaming down her face. Not much was said as we all sat down and tuned in to the news. I watched the towers come down on a loop and I remember sitting there stunned. No words, no emotion, just shock. I had just been to New York City for a visit a couple of years before and had seen the Twin Towers up close. I remember being a big fan of RugRats as a kid and seeing the towers as Phil and Lil because of a special.
As the days and weeks went on, classes slowly got back to normal, but I was changed forever. That moment stuck with me and I suddenly started caring more about world news. I paid attention as more information was gathered about the attacks. When we invaded Afghanistan to take down Al Qaeda the first thoughts of enlisting in the military entered my mind. I saw on the news my first glimpses of people suffering, of children growing up in a war torn world. I realized how blessed I am to live in the United States of America, a country where we are abundantly blessed. I wanted Al Qaeda taken down for the black eye they gave America, but moreso I wanted to make a difference in the world, to make it a better place.
Today I am a soldier in the United States Army and getting ready to deploy to the Middle East for the first time. Remembering days like 9/11, D-Day and Pearl Harbor remind me why I serve. I serve for my beloved country, protecting those at home with the hopes we don’t see another attack on our soil. I serve for the brotherhood and sisterhood of those I serve with. There is a bond between us that binds us together. Our war wounds are mostly invisible here at home, but we serve each other when we come together through our common cause and experience.
15 years ago my world became smaller, but my cause became bigger. Today I serve with the mission of making the world a better place. Regardless of what your political beliefs are, regardless of the results of this election, this country is worth it. The world is worth it. We can come together. We can make the world a better place.
I am a soldier – a warrior – in the United States Army, but more important, I am a soldier – a warrior – in God’s Army. But I can’t fight a battle by myself. When I try to fight on my own, of my strength, I fail. Every time I will fail. However, when I give up my strength and take the hand of Jesus, He gives me His strength I am guaranteed to never fall. I may stumble now and again, but all I need to do is take His hand again and He pulls me back up into His arms. I gain His strength and He stays with me, because He promises to never leave me nor forsake me. Nothing I do could ever separate His love from me. I am safe when I with Him – safe to mess up, safe to forget, safe to come back and safe to be forgiven. He is always there, waiting with open arms and ready to take my hand again. It’s never Him that lets go. It’s always me who lets go when I think I can handle something on my own. When I inevitably fall, Jesus is still right there to catch me and pull me back up when I reach out for His hand. We walk together and He gives me His strength and the confidence I need to keep on driving on. I can be strong and courageous because of His hand in mine, leading me out of my sin and into my purpose and destiny.
We all struggle with something in this fallen world. We think we’re alone in our struggles, but we don’t have to be. We have Jesus fighting for us, with us, but He also gives us relationships to come alongside us in support and love. Because we all struggle with somethng in life, we can all relate in our struggles. Regardless of what the struggle with sin is, we know the feelings related to not being able to beat it. But there is One who will always win because He has already fought for us. Jesus sacrificed Himself in order to win the war against the enemy, and He comes alongside us in our battles. All we need to do is take His hand and walk beside Him, never letting go. Even if we do let go of His hand, He doesn’t keep walking away from us. He catches us when we fall so we have a soft landing. He picks us back up to our feet. He waits for us to reach out again for His hand. We then walk with Him again, side by side as the perfect team. It is only a perfect team because of Jesus. We can’t do it on our own, but anything is possible when we let Him lead and hold tightly to His hand along the way.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10
As a follow-up to my previous post, I wanted to give an update on the house we were praying for, and many of you were praying with us about. We waited patiently all week to hear back from the homeowners, sometimes anxiously as we prayed and thought about what life in the house might be like. We were trying not to get our hopes up, but I think in some ways we did. When thinking about the future it’s hard not to get excited at all the possibilities you know await you.
On Friday afternoon we finally decided to give the homeowners a call and ask about an update to the situation. They told us they had an appointment the next morning with the other couple and they were supposed to have their down payment. We waited anxiously patient through Saturday morning for a phone call from them with a yes or no answer regarding our proposal. It was Saturday evening when we finally heard back. They had signed the contract with the other couple.
Our hearts broke for a moment. We were so sure of the house, but hope soon set in. God knows what He is doing and He has something much better for us in mind. Now we have one less thing to worry about as we continue on the path we’re on of making sure everything is in order before we “officially” begin our lives together. We’ll be able to put ourselves in a much better position as we continue searching, but we can take our time and do everything the right way without worry. I’ll take God’s way of thinking and His plan over my way of thinking any day of the week, every second of every hour.
“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘Plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.'” – Jeremiah 29:11-13, ESV