“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)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Life Sentence

When you dwell on injustice or on a situation that has wronged you, you only give it power. It steals your productivity, your creativity… actually, more accurately, you GIVE away your productivity and creativity and energy because no one can take something from you that is not physical. You are the manager of your life. Your life belongs to the creator, but He has given you the “signature authority”. No, we cannot say that we will still have it tomorrow b/c you never know when there might be a natural disaster, car wreck or freak illness that could take our lives, but today, right now, you get to make a choice. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like it. It seems like our emotions and feelings have control. That is a LIE; a boldface lie of the enemy. Our enemy wants us to think that we don’t have control, but the FACT is, the TRUTH is, we have been given the gift of freewill from our creator. 
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) 
The author and perfecter of our lives gave us the ability to make a choice, to make millions of choices. The reality is that if we are imprisoned by our feelings and emotions, then we have chosen to be there. To escape it is not always as easy as making the decision not to believe the lies, oh how I wish it were. I would be able to free so many of the enemy’s prisoners. We must band together and work to become free of the lies, because it’s Worth it! Because WE are Worth it!
“For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” (Matt 18:20)
If Jesus decided that YOU are worth dying a horrific death by crucifixion, then you are worth fighting for. Your happiness, your joy your HOPE are worth the time and effort it takes to break free. As I was talking to God this very morning, my brain has been swirling. I feel very fortunate that I get to hear words from God, but today He, very poignantly pointed me back to the Bible. He said, “Your mind is too full of lies for me to speak to you. You need to seek the truth in My word”. And that was it. So… I started in Matthew b/c I have to admit I’ve been bouncing all around the Bible in my readings lately so I thought I should probably refocus and start at the beginning of the New Testament. 
When I came to the end of chapter 6, I stopped and began writing. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt 6:34) I am so busy worrying about the future that I am not living right now. So what can I do today? What does God call me to do today? I know it’s not entirely possible, but if I didn’t have to plan for the future at all, what would I do with myself today? 
I was recently talking to friend of mine, Vickie, who has been struggling. She has struggled with inner turmoil, the kind that makes you feel inadequate and that you’ll never amount to anything worthwhile. She has dealt with garbage within her Church family, the one place that she is supposed to feel safe and loved. Luckily for her (and us) our God is greater than all of our struggles and she recently got a beautiful revelation: “You are sentenced to live with the person you become, however, you have the ability to choose who that person is.” And she CHOSE to be Amazing! Each day is a new day, a new choice, a new opportunity to learn from our past and to be who we want to be in the Present! I too am choosing to BE today and not worry about tomorrow.
Reflection Question: What are you worrying about? Pray to Jesus to lift your burden. How can you be the person you want to be TODAY? 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Devil Went Down...

No matter how depressed I get or riled with anxiety, the enemy has lost the war. He might win a battle here or there; I'm sure you too have lived to tell about being temporarily defeated on some occasion or another, but the war has been won. We don't know when or how Jesus will return to triumphantly lay claim to His followers, but we know He will. 

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." (John 14:1-4 NIV) 

I have had a rough couple of weeks struggling with doubt and anxiety. The fear of the unknown future always turns me inside out and this has been a tough one. My best friend is deployed. No matter any struggles we have had, my husband has always, since we've been together, been right there with me through my personal internal battles. Between the lost connections, limited time and time difference, I have had to rely on outside sources to help me through this bout. 

As my pastor quoted a wise women he once knew, "He is a good devil." For certain, the enemy is good at his job. He knows just where to lie in waiting to ambush us. Right where to hit to be affective. I personally seem to be addicted to affirmation. On the surface it doesn't seem so bad; it makes me driven and "good" at what I aspire to. But leave myself open to the "father of lies" and my "strength" can also be my biggest downfall. Pride. 

"When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." (Proverbs 11:2 NIV)

I am addicted to affirmation. I seek it out and without it I become something I do not know. Without being able to pour myself into the Army full time, I am having a hard time placing my identity. 

"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV)

The great thing about investing in other people's spiritual lives is that when you're down, they can always recite your words right back to you. And well, if "I" said them, they must be true.  ;)

I was venting to my mom this week about what I'm struggling with and the most wonderful thing happened. My words of Gods affirmation that have breathed new life into her, came full circle and gave me hope for the future. My mom is no theologian, but in the end, truth is truth. The Bible does not lie and if we turn there, we will always find what we need. 

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

So too bad for you enemy. I might have lost a battle and believed your lies about my unworthiness for a moment, but not for long. 

"The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1 NIV)

Reflection Question: What lies are you believing? Ask God to open the eyes of your heart to His truth. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

As Heavy as The Cross

There are times in my life when I am oh so pleasantly surprised at what God does, in spite of me. I write with passion because the things I write about are the things I live in my life. I’m never writing for someone else, so I am amazed when what I say touches someone. Sure I love when my mom and dad tell me great things about my work… but well, whether or not it’s true, I feel like they have to! But the story I’m about to relay brought tears of gratitude and joy to my eyes because I knew that the Holy Spirit was at work, and someway chose to use insignificant me. After reading “I Have”, one of my most respected retired NCOs relayed this, in his words, “terrible, yet most honorable event”.  

While on call to perform Casualty Notification duties, I was tasked with notifying an eight year old little girl that her Daddy would not be coming home. While I was respectfully honored to perform this duty, I was saddened a great deal. That is a part of me that no one has ever seen.

The little girl was the only person listed on the Soldiers paperwork for notification, insurance and anything else- as regulation has it, I was to notify her and only her. She was not at her home when we arrived; however, her mother was. The mother had asked if we could tell her and allow her to tell her daughter, but as regulation stated, I could not do that. The wait seemed to be the longest I ever had in my 28 year military career, but she finally arrived. When she exited the vehicle my heart jumped into my throat, she had beautiful short blond hair, the biggest, brightest blue eyes I had ever seen, and a big cheerful smile that could capture the heart of the most hardened individual. She was filled with laughter and happiness. As a father and a grandfather, I felt as if I could not be the one, who in just a few short minutes, using a standard script, would destroy her world of innocence and happiness. As history has shown many times over, this little girl was about to see me as the monster who said her Daddy was dead.

Her mom had asked for a minute with her before she was told and we respected her request. When they came out and approached us, I stood straight with courage and confidence and asked the lord to please guide my words and hold me steady. He did. I was able to perform my duty with honor, integrity and respect for her dignity. After I told her, she looked up at her mom who was beginning to cry, and it was at that moment she began to realize what I had just told her. Her beautiful smile was slowly replaced with a sad frown, the happiness in her face and eyes was replaced with tears and contorted cheeks. I asked if she understood; she nodded her head yes, and my duty was done. I executed an about face and walked away without ever looking back. I could hear the crying and the words “not my Daddy” as the Chaplain and the Mother comforted her.

Earlier, as I and the Chaplain had stood in the yard awaiting the arrival of the little girl, I went over in my mind what I was to say and how I was to say it, knowing that she would not understand what was being said, nor why. The Chaplain provided comfort and encouragement with words of scripture and strength.
He reminded me of how Jesus, bore the burden of the cross for us because he knew that it was his duty and responsibility. He told me the story from beginning to end, a story I have heard a million times before- but I felt as if this time was the first time I had actually really listened. If a man who was about to be crucified could go with cheer and words of encouragement, I felt that my job was easy in comparison. As I was told, Jesus had a duty to perform just as I had.

Ma’am, you know that I do not easily display my religious beliefs, and as anyone who has ever heard me go off on a knuckle head would believe that I had none; however, it was my turn to bear the burden, and failure was not an option. Even today, sleep is difficult to come by as my mind often strays back to that fateful day and the eight year little girl whose world was destroyed in a matter of minutes with a few short words.
This haunting event took place about the same time our unit began its rotation back to the states. There were many delays in the departure of aircraft. Each time we received word of ETA of aircraft with a manifest, we were to notify the appropriate families of the flight and time of arrival. Due to sand storms and/or other events within the theater of operations, many flights were delayed from leaving multiple times. We would then have to call all the families again and inform them of this change in flight.
On one such occasion, a particular flight had been delayed numerous times. After about the fourth time notifying the families that the flight had been delayed a call came in from a spouse. She was understandably upset and verbally abusive in her anger. As the senior ranking Soldier in the building she was directed to me, I took her call and listened patiently as she yelled at me with the insinuation that this was our fault. Then she said “how in the hell am I supposed to, tell our eight year old little girl that her Daddy is not coming home?”

At that point, my anger swelled to an unbelievable level and all my years as a hard-ass NCO wanted to take over, cuss her out and hang up; however, the professional NCO took control and I calmly said “Ma’am, two days ago I did have tell an eight year old little girl that her Daddy would not be coming home, and was NOT because his plane had been delayed”. The silence that followed was but about 15 to 20 seconds but it seemed like an eternity. The lady then spoke and said “oh, I am so sorry, thank you for the information” and she hung up. I calmly replaced the receiver, turned to see a half dozen set of eyes on me; no one said a word as they watched me walk down to my office. Once inside, I closed the door, sat down and hung my head in my hands and pondered the event that had just unfolded. I thought of the outcome, and the possible outcome.  It was then that I realized that the burden I had to bear two days prior was now complete. I looked up and thanked the lord for steadying my shoulder and providing me the strength to calmly address the situation.

I now have a two year old granddaughter… she has beautiful blond hair, bright blue eyes, and is full of laughter and smiles. This experience has taught me to love and cherish what I have every day.

Thank you for helping me tell someone about this- maybe tonight, sleep will come just a bit easier.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to tell this story- finally. The more time I have been able to spend with my granddaughter, the more this nightmare has played over and over in my head; however, your most recent tale of Casualty Assistance seemed to be the hand of fate opening the door for me to talk about it. You are the first person to hear an account of this event and I just know that no matter how heavy my burden seemed, it was not as heavy as a cross.

Reflection Question: Is anything you’re dealing with as heavy as a cross? If not, let go bring it to His feet and thank God for bearing the heaviest burden.
Shared with Permission from SFC (Ret) Donnie R. Burnett