The Ultimate Sacrifice

Today is Memorial Day.  Who are you remembering today?

Memorial Day is set aside to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Giving their lives for our freedom.

I am blessed to have members of my family who served in several wars as well as during peaceful times. I am also blessed that none of them were required to give their lives in battle.

Still, today I remember them with a grateful heart.  My father, Raymond Serviss, served in the Air Force while his younger brother, John Serviss served in the Navy. Both had opportunity to see adventure but didn’t experience battle.

For my mother’s father, Wendall  Lucas,( I’ve written about him before), and his younger brother, Harley Lucas, it was  a different story.

My grandfather was a member of the 44th Tank Battalion stationed in the Philippines during WWII.  The flame throwers.  He rarely spoke about his experiences but when he did it was clear that his memories went far beyond what he was willing to talk about.

His younger brother was a paratrooper in Europe who landed behind enemy lines and was taken prisoner. He had memories best forgotten as well.

While my grandfather didn’t lose his life in WWII he made some significant sacrifices. When he was sent to Asia he left behind a 9-year-old daughter, a wife with heart problems, and her aging parents. During his tour his mother-in-law died and he wasn’t there to comfort his wife. While he was thousands of miles around the globe his heart was with those in his household. His child, his fragile wife and an old man who had just become a widower. Those he loved had been left to fend for themselves.

Family was the top priority for my grandfather.  To leave his family to care for themselves was one of the most difficult things he ever had to do. So many past and current members of the armed forces understand exactly how he felt.

It brings to mind the story of Jesus calling his disciples to give up everything, to leave jobs and family behind to follow him. (Luke 5)

We are all called to consider our priorities. Most of us aren’t called to physically leave our families behind. But in our hearts we must make the decision to give up everything to follow Christ.

If today, we can say that we are grateful for the sacrifices made by men and women who have defended our freedom, can we also acknowledge an even higher calling to take a stand to defend our faith?  To give honor to our God who made the ultimate sacrifice to secure our freedom for eternity.

For this we are truly thankful!

Matthew 16:24-26  Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

 

 

Bloom Where You’re Planted

Have you ever heard someone say “I was born in the wrong era?” I must confess, I have said this. I have made this comment because I sometimes have a yearning for a simpler life. For me, the ideal would have been around the turn of the century. Not the last one, the one before. The Victorian Era with all the beautiful dresses, the lazy Sunday afternoons along the riverbank complete with meaningful conversations. A slower life, with fewer distractions. That’s when I should have been born. It suits my personality better.

Actually, if I would look honestly at that era, I would see that it had its own set of challenges. It wasn’t just sunny days and beautiful people. If I had lived in that day, it’s likely that one or more of my sons would have served in WWI or died of the influenza.  From a distance, life in another time might look easier, simpler. But no time in history was without problems and difficulties.

And that brings up the real question. Why was I born in this era? Why am I alive at this very moment?

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

If the things God designed me to do for Him were prepared beforehand then it sounds like I was meant to be on earth at exactly this time.

Psalm 139:16 “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.”

God knew when he created each of us just what we were ordained to do. He already had our days planned out for us so that we would accomplish what He designed us to do.  He told Jeremiah (Jer 1:5) that He had appointed him as a prophet to the nations while Jeremiah was still in his mother’s womb.

So why are we tempted to long for a different life? Maybe it’s not a different era, but a different set of circumstances that we could have in this life. Maybe a different location, maybe a different family, or maybe a different set of skills or abilities.

It’s easy to focus on the difficulties of living in the 21st century. We face things that seem so much harder than those who have lived before us faced. We long for less stress and more time. But it is all an illusion. Each generation has been prepared and equipped by God to accomplish His works in the circumstances where they find themselves.

We were ordained to be living right now. We have a purpose to fulfill in these days and God determined that we were the generation to do this work. What we have is today. This day, to bloom right where God has planted us, to be faithful to Him in this time that He has ordained for us.

What can you do today to further God’s kingdom? What can you do today to bring Him glory?

Ask Him.

Learning How to Weather the Storm

As new residents to  the Sunshine State, we are learning many new things. Hurricane season begins in two weeks so this weekend our destination was the Tampa Bay Hurricane Expo. We came away with a stack of information to read and digest.

It’s certainly a different world than we have been used to.  We heard many new concepts including evacuation routes, flood zones, storm surges, wind speeds and isobars .  We’d already known quite a bit since we’ve visited Florida regularly for the past 35 years.  And  during hurricane season, we watched with great interest from up north, since my grandfather lived here. We are  now getting a fresh perspective, as residents who could be directly effected by a major storm.

As I listened to discussion about how to prepare and what to expect I was amazed at how well organized the area is to face an incoming storm. They have a timeline of  steps to take 5 days out, 3 days out, and the day of the storm. The key to being safe is being prepared.  The storm has no mercy, but you can take steps to be ready when the storm makes landfall.

I couldn’t help but think of what I had just been learning in my women’s bible study this semester. The topic was the armor of God, detailed in Ephesians 6.  God gave us all we need to stand against the enemy of our souls who also has no mercy.  We just need to USE what we know.

The other thing I couldn’t help but think of as I saw the maps and the satellite pictures of huge storms covering most of the Gulf of Mexico is that even these powerful storms are no match for our God.  Psalm 107:28-29 says, “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,  and He brought them out of their distresses.  He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed.” We also know that Jesus calmed the storm when He was in the boat with His disciples (Mark 4). It was no trouble for Him at all.

We don’t know why God doesn’t always calm the storm in our lives, but we know He is able. If he doesn’t choose to do so, we also know He has given us what we need to stand strong against the storm and believe that He will keep us from being destroyed.

Is a storm on your horizon? What are you doing to prepare for landfall? Maybe you are in the middle of a hurricane right now. Be encouraged, God is more powerful than the storm and He will be right there with you until the storm passes.

Do you know what the amazing thing is about a hurricane? After it passes, the sky clears and the sun shines again.

 

What Does it Mean to Wait on the Lord?

Most of us don’t like waiting. We get impatient, restless, perhaps even anxious. We want our packages to arrive TODAY, which is why Amazon is offering same day delivery now. We want our food quick, so we use the drive through, never even getting out of our car.

Is that how we also wait on the Lord?  Are we impatient and restless with Him too?

Abraham understood waiting.  He waited on the Lord to deliver on his promise of a son.  He must have struggled with impatience wondering if God was ever going to come through on his promise, while Abraham just kept getting older and older. Was God going to run out of time? Would Abraham die before God remembered His promise?

Do you ever feel like you’ve prayed and heard God’s answer and then even though you try to stay faithful and expectant, as the days, weeks, and perhaps years go by, you struggle more and more with waiting.  You try not to be impatient. You tell yourself, “all in God’s timing.”  But you still struggle. Why does it have to take so long?

I don’t know about you, but I write notes in my Bible.  The Bible I have now is falling apart from a decade of use.  I underline, I write notes, I record dates when I feel God has spoken a particular verse into a season of my life.

Psalm 27:14, which says, “Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord,” is a verse God has used over and over in my life.  I have five different dates written beside that verse that span a six year period.  I can’t tell you what was going on when I wrote each date. It really doesn’t matter too much now. The point is that when I needed to hear from God, He was faithful to remind me what was important. He helped me redirect my attention to His faithfulness when I was faced with a difficult situation. In fact, I have this verse written, along with some other scriptures, on my whiteboard right now so I can see it everyday and be reminded of God’s faithfulness.

Read that verse again. What sort of waiting is God asking you to do?  Can you take that verse for yourself and surrender your timing to God’s, believing that He has a perfect plan? Perhaps you can write today’s date beside it in your Bible and be reminded that God has not forgotten His promises to you.

And in the meantime, while you wait, you can follow this advice that I learned many years ago.  Just keep doing what God last told you to do until He tells you otherwise.

Micah 7:7 But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.

Who Are You Allowing to Steal Your Joy?

I overheard a woman in a store complaining that someone else had done something that “ruined her day.”  That’s actually a pretty common thing for people to say these days.

So I have to ask myself, why is it that we allow other people to have so much power over us?  That someone’s actions could have the ability to “ruin our day” is giving them way too much power.

We all have difficult people in our lives. We all have the same opportunity to choose how we will respond to them. It could be a neighbor, a coworker or even a family member who seems to always say the thing that pushes your buttons.  But how you respond is always your choice. No matter how much frustration they cause, no one has the power to control your response. YOU are the only one with that ability.

So who is the thief in your life?  If you named a particular person I have to tell you that you are mistaken. The real thief isn’t a person at all.

In John 10:10 Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

And 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

So you see, that situation that upset the woman I heard in the store was actually a trap. A trap which she fell into by her own choice. We have an enemy but it isn’t that person you struggle to get along with. It isn’t the things other people say or do that we should be concerned about.  There is an enemy and he has a plan. Our job is to be watchful and not take the bait.

So again I ask you, who are you allowing to steal your joy?