Wounded Warriors

Last week, while taking a longed for road trip across America, my mother and I stopped in Dallas, Texas to visit the Presidential Library of George W. Bush.  We both especially wanted to view his portrait gallery of wounded warriors.  It was a moving experience.  As we gazed into the painted faces, listening to the stories of these courageous people, tears would spring to our eyes.  Some were amputees, some suffered PTS (post traumatic stress).  Others had brain injuries.  Their physical injuries varied but in spirit they were the same — they all pressed on.

I couldn’t help but think of my own father.  He was also a wounded warrior.  He served two tours of duty in Vietnam and was there during the TET offensive.  He was wounded there and evacuated to Honolulu, Hawaii for surgery.  Most of you who knew my father probably never knew that he, too, like many wounded warriors, suffered PTS, but like the other heroes — he pressed on.

I remember a day when I was sitting in his office.  We were just chatting, talking about many subjects as we often did.  Somehow the conversation turned to the days of the Vietnam War.  I asked him, “Dad, did any of the people you knew over there ever get killed?”  I can still recall the goose bumps that sprung to my skin at his one word answer — “everyday.”  There was a faraway look in his eyes for just a moment and then he came back to present day and we talked of other things.

There will always be wounded warriors who suffer for the cause of their countries.  Proudly they serve, knowing what could happen to them at any given moment.  It’s the same with spiritual warriors, too.  We serve lovingly and joyfully, knowing also that during any day, an attack of darkness against light could befall us.

We may be happily going about the business of the day, when in an unexpected moment, tragedy strikes.  A phone call comes of an accident to a loved one, a doctor’s report of a terminal illness, an unsuspected pink slip shatters a work day, the bank informs of overdraft, divorce crushes the heart, unfaithfulness strangles joy in a second, death takes away.  Every morning when we awake, none of us knows what form of adversity may come crashing into our world.  No one is exempt,  but like all wounded warriors — we can all press on.

All wounded warriors are created in the image of God.  What does that mean?  It means we were created to cry like Jesus cried, He felt everything we feel, He was tempted in every way that we have also been tempted, He was angry at the money changers in the temple, He was disheartened when friends did not stand with Him.  I often think, too, about who Jesus’ friends were: fisherman.  Can’t you just imagine the fish stories that were told around the camp fire?  Don’t you know Jesus laughed along with all of them?  He laughed and He cried. Jesus was a wounded warrior.  He felt pain, endured tormenting emotions and temptations.  He cried in grief.  Above all, on the cross, He was wounded for our transgressions, but like all heroes, He pressed on, choosing to do the courageous thing.  We can, too.

When we hurt, or are reminded of the scars we carry from our personal wars, or cry out in pain of desolation, we also have the strength to carry on.  It’s a strength that comes from God Himself.  We are created in His image; His strength is our strength.  That is why Paul could say in Philippians 3:13-14, “Brothers and sisters, this one thing I do; Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Jesus Christ, is calling us.”  This doesn’t mean that we literally forget the wounds that have come to us, but it means we don’t allow what happened in the past to define what we can become today.  We are all wounded warriors, but let us be warriors of courage and defiance to what would hold us back.  Like all heroes — press on.

 

 

 

Turkey, Dressing, and Cranberry Sauce

I returned to the US this week in time to celebrate the American holiday known as Thanksgiving.   It’s my favorite holiday of the year as family and friends gather around a table to share blessings with each other.  There is much more than turkey with all the trimmings shared at Thanksgiving.

We are reminded to be thankful for our family that are near to us and to be thankful for the memories of those who have left us to join our Father in heaven.  We are reminded to be thankful for dear friends who might as well be family because of the closeness of our hearts knit together in an unbreakable bond of love and care.

We reflect at this time upon the blessings of the year gone by and all that God has done for us yet again.  He has given His strength when we have been weak.  He has given us courage when we have been scared.  He has given us comfort when we have been hurting.  He has given us assurance of His presence when we have felt alone.  He has given us His understanding when we have been misunderstood.  He has lifted us up to a higher place when circumstances have sent us reeling to depths of despair.  He has put His wisdom in our minds when we have felt foolish and small.  He has spoken His words of love when we have felt unloved and forsaken by others.  He has been the light when the world has been dark.  He has been our everything when we have felt like nothing.

Jesus is our rock in every situation of life, year after year, day after day, moment by moment.  With thoughts of God’s love for us in the forefront of our minds, it makes everyday a time of Thanksgiving and enables us to say with the Apostle Paul:

“We can rejoice when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us – they help us learn to endure.  And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation.  And this expectation will not disappoint us.  For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.”  Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)

This Old Crate

This past Sunday evening there was a praise and worship time at the church I attend in England.  The atmosphere was sweet, lovely, and peaceful as we joined voices and hearts together.  Leading us that evening were two guitar players and a drummer.  It is the drummer I’m wanting to tell you about.

You’re probably picturing a set of various drums and cymbals but get that picture out of your mind.  This drummer has the most unusual drum I’ve ever seen.  It appears to be a rectangular wooden crate.  Nothing more – nothing less.  Joe stands it on one end – and sits on it.  Yes, sits on it.  Then he simply leans forward and with the palms of his hands he beats out the rhythm of the song.  Amazing and beautiful!  It adds so much to the worship time.

I have often looked at this crate-looking instrument and thought to myself – in my hands it would remain just that – a crate to sit on.  In Joe’s skilled hands there is no doubt of it being a genuine drum.  God does that with us.  The Apostle Paul reminds us in II Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation as old things are passed away and all things are become new.” (paraphrase mine)  

Ever wake up feeling like a wet rag?  Or like a truck has run over you? Or like you’re nothing more than an old, useless crate?   Cheer yourself up with a positive truth that if you are a child of God “all things are become new.”  It goes along with one of my very favorite verses: Luke 1:37, For with God nothing shall be impossible.”  That isn’t a “maybe so” – it’s an “absolutely, positively, no doubt about it – truth.  It’s God’s truth.

With those thoughts in mind, whatever you wake up feeling like today, remember – you are a new and wonderful creation – the old of yesteryear is passed away – today expect everything you need from God to be yours – you are His new creation and He loves to provide for you, to bless you,  and to use you to bless others.