Memorial Day — 2016

Memorial Day carries so much emotion for me.

My father served in World War II as a Navy doctor in the Pacific.   He continued his service to this country, not only as a physician, but as a Radiological Safety Officer in the post-war Manhattan Project where he was exposed a number of times to radiation in 1946/Operation Crossroads at Bikini Island and in 1951/Operation Greenhouse at Eniwetok Island.  When he was 46 years old, he died of Pancreatic cancer, a cancer known to stem from radiation exposure.  I was 12.  My sisters were 10 and 7.  We lost our father.  He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  I am proud of my father.  Our mother raised us alone with grief on her heart.  In 2013, she passed away. We had the honor of burying her with Daddy at Arlington National Cemetery.

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My husband served in the Army, 101st Airborne, Combat Infantry Soldier, in the Viet Nam War.  We, as a country, did not treat the soldiers of that war well upon their return.  I am grateful that there is respect shown for them now, but we should have acknowledged all that they did for us back then.  I am sorry to all of you Viet Nam veterans who might be reading this.  Instead of recognizing you as a soldier who was obeying orders, we looked to the overall picture of the war that seemed fruitless and was killing so many of you.  May I apologize for our mistakes and the dishonor we showed you.  I am so sorry. 

I love you, Kenneth, and respect you so very much…for all you did then and for the husband you are to me now.  I praise God for you. 

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Memorial Day is:

  • a day (and there ought to be 364 more days a year for this) to remember the many men and women who have worn a uniform of the United States Navy, Army, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard over this country’s history.
  • a day to remember why they wore those uniforms — to protect the United States of America and her citizens.
  • a day to remember that many have died in the face of an enemy during battle, protecting the people and the freedoms that come with living in this country.  Their blood was shed as they obeyed their commanding officers.
  • a day to remember that there are many, this very day, who are wearing one of these uniforms and are in harm’s way…this very day!  

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Look at the vast number of graves just in this one scene at Arlington.   On Arlington National Cemetery’s website, words there cause me to reflect: “Laying our Nation’s veterans and their eligible family members to rest with honor and respect, while treating their loved ones with dignity and compassion, is the cornerstone of Arlington National Cemetery’s mission.”
Whether we agree with or against things that are happening in this country, by this country, this is our country.  May we stand proud of the flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, our National Anthem.  As we stand with our hand over our heart, may we be proud of these men and women in uniform for they are standing in obedience to the orders they receive from their commanders.  They are sent off to battle, some of which we may agree with with and some we may not.  They are doing in the name of the United States of America.

Father, we know that You are in control of this whole world.  You know what is happening right here in the USA.  Father, we pray that Your protection be around these soldiers who are fighting in harm’s way.  Please care for each and every one of them.  I thank You for the parents You gave me, for the husband I have today.  I am so very blessed.  In the Name of Jesus, I pray.  Amen.
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Unite My Heart, O LORD

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 Teach me Your way, O LORD;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name. 
Psalm 86:11

יָחַד

yachad

to be (or become) one:—join, unite

Reading this Psalm recently, the first word of the last line really touched me…UNITE…Unite my heart.  This phrase is about singleness of heart, a one-track heart, an undivided heart…focused upon God, and God Alone.

Is that possible?

Undivided

David called upon God to unite his heart.  He asked God to do this for Him so that he would, could fear His Name.  He asked God for this unity of heart so he could revere the One Who called him to be king.  He asked God to close any gaps that his heart may have had so he would stand in awe of the God Who called David a man after His heart.

“And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’” Acts 13:22 (ref.: 1 Samuel 13:14)

God created this heart of mine so that I would, could love Him, honor Him, adore Him, and praise Him.  I am to be focused upon Him with this oneness of heart.  Yet I have this broken, divided heart because I live in this fallen world.  I don’t mean for it to be this way.  I try to focus on God and God Alone.  Yet, my heart can lose sight and track of Him because I am looking everywhere but to Him for peace, love, gentleness, joy, and so much more.  Oh, that I would turn from my own ways and look only to Him, always.

I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify Your name forevermore.  Psalm 86:12

Oh, what I am able to do when my heart is united, when it is one whole instead of two or many pieces.  I will praise Him.  I will love Him.  I will glorify my God with all of my heart.  He wants all of me so that He can use all of me in this world.  Oh, how this world needs Him!  Oh, my!  How it needs God!

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Father God, I pray that You will unite my heart into one whole piece wholly desirous of You.  I wish to focus upon only You.  When I am at this place,  LORD, I can see only You and, then, through Your love, your heart, I can see so much more clearly.  Your clarity becomes mine in those precious moments.  I can love this world in which You have placed me with an undivided heart.  Oh, my LORD, unite my heart to be undivided and willingly, lovingly directed to You.  May this be so in the Name of Jesus.  I pray, O LORD.  I pray.  Amen. 

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Graphic #1:  http://chuckbalsamo.com/2011/01/an-undivided-heart/

Graphic #2: http://ncccnj.com/pages/category/podcasts/messages/amy-minnich

Graphic #3: http://www.make-my-christian-life-work.com/

Permission

 

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“Mommy, please let me go to Suzie’s house to spend the night.”

“Daddy, can I have this toy?”

“Mr. Jones, I would like your permission to go on the field trip.”

How often have you heard questions such as these?  How often have you, yourself, asked such questions?  We ask permission throughout life.  We are taught early to ask for permission rather than just assume that the world is ours…at least we are blessed if we have been taught so.

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Many people today do not think that asking permission needs to be done.  Many believe that they can have or take what they believe is rightfully theirs, no matter what that may be.

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.  And this we will do if God permits.  Hebrew 6:1-3

ἐπιτρέπω

epitrepō

to turn over (transfer), i.e. allow:—give leave (liberty, license), let, permit, suffer

And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him.  Acts 28:16

He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.  Matthew 19:8

To another He said, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”  Luke 9:59

But our God has taught us through His Word that receiving permission to do something, to have something, to say something, is very important.

Jesus prayed:

And He said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.  Luke 11:2

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He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O My Father, if this cup may not pass away from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done.  Matthew 26:42

Through our LORD, we learn that asking the Father for permission is the way we are to come to Him.  Our gratefulness and love is in the asking, in the humility, in the respect, and in the love we show to the One to Whom we ask.  A child asking for permission to do something is showing respect to the parents.  A student asking the teacher if they may share something with the class is done out of respect and courtesy to the teacher and to the class.  A caregiver asking her mother if she is ready to allow her to change the bed sheets or a diaper is coming from a place of respect and love.

God’s will is what we should seek, want to seek, for He reigns over all.  This is His world and we are His creations.  To walk in His will, we must seek His will and walk in His way.

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.  Isaiah 30:21

One of the definitions of “allow” is to suffer.  Surely, I do not want to ask permission to suffer?  Yet, times bring hardships and trials.  God knows just what we need to grow in Christian maturity.  Suffering may be a part of what I need.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.  Romans 5:1-5

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Father, guide me, correct me in all that I am, in all that I do.  I desire to be obedient to You and to all who have authority over me.  Father, may I walk in faith as You call me in Your Name.  Show me Your way in all things.  Jesus taught and still teaches today.  He shows, by example, the ways You called Him and now You call me.  Thank You, LORD.  May I walk in the way I should go.  In the Name of Christ, my Savior, I pray.  Amen.  

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Scrabble “Please:” http://www.photos-public-domain.com/2012/04/03/please/

“Asking Permission” graphic:  http://lebarronpark.yisd.net/MediaGallery/tabid/1135/AlbumID/2447-143/Default.aspx

Hebrews 4:16 graphic:  http://www.amazingfacts.org/news-and-features/scripture-pictures/image/e/11359/t/hebrews-416

 

 

Resting – Sheep and Shepherds

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He makes me lie down in green pastures.  Psalm 23:2a

Sheep will lie down when they are:

  • free from fear
  • free from friction (within the flock)
  • free of pests (flies, parasites, etc.)
  • free from hunger

The shepherd makes it possible for sheep to lie down, to rest, to be quiet, content, and relaxed.

* Free from fear

Sheep are timid and can be panicked so very easily.  A jackrabbit can bound before a flock, sending them all into a stampede.  Most do not know what they are fleeing, but follow in fright.

  • Sheep are quieted and reassured when they actually see their shepherd, knowing he or she is near.

* Free from friction

Sheep, like most animals, have an order of dominance within the flock.  Shepherds call this the “butting order.”  This may bring tension, rivalry, conflict, even cruelty within the flock.  The sheep are always ready to defend their place in that order or against intruders.

  • The shepherd’s presence calms them.  They tend to forget their contests and discontent.  The less aggressive sheep will be more content as well as more restful and calm.  Sheep do not need to defend themselves when the shepherd is around.

* Free from pests

Sheep can be tormented by a number of insects and parasites.  It is virtually impossible for them to lie down and rest when this occurs.  They are shaking their heads, stamping around, always up on their feet.

  • A good shepherd is diligent to keep his flock free from these pests.  Insect repellents, dips, and other methods of care are most important to the sheep’s health.  The shepherd is in and among his flock, keeping a watchful eye for problems.  He wants to catch them early so as not to allow them to spread or cause serious disease in the flock.  He is there to provide relief.

* Free from hunger

Sheep will remain on their feet as long as they are hungry.  They are not content while they search for food.

  • David was a shepherd boy before he was a king.  He raised his father’s flocks in an arid, barren land.  Green pastures of rich foliage needed to be produced in such a place.  A shepherd works hard to clear land of rocks and brush.  The land is then plowed and prepared for seeds of grass, grain and legumes.  Watering the grasses is part of this preparation.  The sheep need to be moved from one pasture to another as they will eat the grasses down to stubble, even into the root, if left in one area for too long.  When sheep have this land of plenty, they flourish for they fill up quickly and then will lie down to rest and ruminate.

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How does our Shepherd, Jesus Christ, guide us into rest?

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.  Psalm 4:8

* Free from fear

We live in a world where anxiety, fear, and stress often knock upon our doors.  We can dwell upon these things or we can rest in the Lord.  When we are in the midst of those overwhelming feelings, it is truly hard to draw near to the One Who shepherds us.  We tend to run without knowing what we run from or stand still while shaking in our boots.   Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit Who reassures us that Christ is near, has all things under His control.  We do not need to do anything but rest in Him.

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.  2 Timothy 1:7

“It is the special office work of God’s gracious Spirit to convey this sense of the Christ to our fearful hearts.  He comes quietly to reassure us that Christ Himself is aware of our dilemma and deeply involved in it with us.”  W. Phillip Keller

* Free from friction

We also can live in friction.  We struggle with competition, keeping up with our neighbors, jealousy, hatred, rivalry, covetousness, and discontent.  When we are near to our Shepherd, in prayer, in reading His Word, in communion, in love, His Presence takes the discontent, hatred, and all else away.  Abiding in the One Who is worthy to be praised removes those feelings because we are praising Him, loving Him, and walking with Him.

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing.  He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.  But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.  1 Timothy 6:3-7

And He said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  Luke 12:15

“It is the humble heart walking quietly and contentedly in the close and intimate companionship of Christ that is at rest, that can relax, simply glad to lie down and let the world go by.  When my eyes are on my Master they are not on those around me.  This is the place of peace.”   W. Phillip Keller

* Free from pests

We live with many small irritations, things that “bug” us.  They may include disagreements with family members or friends, frustrations in traffic or at work, irritations that keep us awake at night.  Our tendency is to hash and rehash things while they keep us restless.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:26-28

We have been given the Holy Spirit for intercession.  He is there for us.

“In Scripture He is often symbolized by oil — by that which brings healing and comfort and relief from harsh and abrasive aspects of life.  The gracious Holy Spirit makes real in me the very presence of Christ.  He brings quietness, serenity, strength and calmness in the face of frustrations and futility.”  W. Phillip Keller 

Resting in the Shepherd  by trusting Him with our cares and concerns is vital.

* Free from hunger

We have been given salvation and life in Christ.  He is our Shepherd, the Good Shepherd.  We have been given the gift to move from our sin into a life of overcoming victory.  Jesus desires a life of abundant joy and contentment for us if we will come to Him.  He will provide those green pastures.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”  Matthew 5:6

Jesus said to them, “I am the Bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.”  John 6:35

“How He works to clear the life of rocks of stoney unbelief.  How He tries to tear out the roots of bitterness.  He attempts to break up the hard, proud human heart that is set like sun-dried clay.  He then sows the seed of His own precious Word, which, if given half a chance to grow, will produce rich crops of contentment and peace.  He waters this with the dews and rain of His own presence by the Holy Spirit.  He tends and cares and cultivates the life, longing to see it become rich and green and productive.”  W. Phillip Keller

Our Good Shepherd prepares and then leads us to the lush green pastures where we can feed on His Word and rest in Him.

Will we follow Him there?

Will we obey His lead?

Father, I pray that this is so.  I ask You to open our eyes to the One Who gave His life for us.  He is our Shepherd.  I pray that we will obediently follow Him to these beautiful pastures of His loving care.  I pray that we will feed upon Your Word ravenously.  I pray that we will know the feeling of fulfillment so that our time of rest is calm, peaceful, filled with contentment.  Thank You, Father, for the words and thoughts of Mr. Keller for he has taught beautifully while Your Word is a fountain of knowledge from You.  I am grateful for this pasture.  I lie in it more often than not.  May I call upon Your Holy Spirit when I stray, finding myself lost.  I want to lie in it always.  Thank You, Lord, for being my Shepherd.  Thank You for Your forgiveness.  You are Beautiful to me, Lord Jesus.  I pray in Your Holy Name.  Amen.

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Photo 1:  https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=sheep+lie+down&view=detailv2&&id=9BC7072561ABB6981FAA1618A883ACE23BB9525E&selectedIndex=33&ccid=8gPrAn%2fY&simid=608030665586708327&thid=OIP.Mf203eb027fd81a768de47d6d20879251H0&ajaxhist=0

Photo 2: by Biegun Wschodni  https://unsplash.com/photos/vD3L-rN_qNw

and http://www.biegunwschodni.pl/?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=unsplash

Quotes from A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm by W. Phillip Keller

W. Phillip Keller, author of A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm, is due credit for the outline of this post. The 4 points of freedom are from this book.