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He’s Coming Back!

He’s Coming Back!

As this deployment is finally moving to a close, I’ve noticed a shift in my attitude the last few weeks. We have a fairly solid idea of when my husband will be coming home. “He’ll come back eventually” has changed to “He’s coming back!” Now there’s a daily urgency as I look forward to him coming home. My priorities change. My to-do list is structured around it. And every day, all my decisions are colored by it. I only make appointments so-far in advance. Even things as simple as deciding  to keep a TV show saved on the DVR because, within a reasonable amount of time, he’ll be home to watch it. (And there might be a burned-out light bulb I’m putting off replacing because I don’t like ladders and I can live without it until he gets back.)

Once I became aware of how these thoughts were affecting my daily life, I thought about how the Bible talks about the return of Jesus, and how we are supposed to look forward to it.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God… ~ 2 Peter 3:10-12

How would my life look different if I thought every day that Jesus was coming back? Not read about His return or thought about the fact that He’ll come back “one day,” but really dwelled on the idea that He is on His way back any time now?

Paul encourages us to be holy and godly as we wait for the day of God (almost rhetorically – “So, what kind of holy, godly lives do you think you should be living?”). He also reminds us that the Earth and the works that are done in it will be dissolved. Now, we have to read it in the context of all the Bible’s teachings about stewardship regarding our lives here on Earth, but he’s reminding us to prioritize our energies and assets on the things that won’t be burned up or dissolved, as Jesus taught us to lay up treasures in Heaven, rather than on Earth.

When I was growing up, my church used to sing the same hymn at the close of each service  – “Coming Again!” Even though my 13-year-old self got burned out on it, the words are forever etched in my memory (at least the version my church sang). And now I’m thankful for the repetition, because I find myself revisiting that jovial tune more and more often.

Coming Again! Coming Again!

May be morning, may be noon,

May be evening, but will be soon!

Coming Again! Coming Again!

Oh what a wonderful day it will be!

Jesus is coming –

Praise God He is coming –

Our Savior is coming again!

The war isn’t over

The war isn’t over

It’s not uncommon for a soldier to tell someone their job and hear, “Aren’t you glad the war is over?” But units are still deploying, troops are still dying, and many feel like Americans have forgotten about them.

While they don’t look for recognition on an individual level, men and women in uniform deserve our support simply because they are an all-volunteer force, many of whom chose to enlist during a time of active war on two fronts.

“Blessed be Yahweh, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; He is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and He in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.” Psalm 144:1-2 (ESV)

Often people don’t reach out to our troops, not for a lack of desire, but for a lack of direction. So here are some practical ways to show support for the members of the United States military, this week and all year:

Build relationships with the military community. Oklahoma City, Lawton, Altus and Enid all have installations with thousands of military families around them. Advertise your Fall Festival or Vacation Bible School in the base periodicals. Contact post Spouse Clubs so they can connect your youth group with families who need yard work, babysitters or home maintenance.

Send care packages to deployed service members. It doesn’t have to be gifts or food. Even some kids’ drawings and a board game can brighten up a Marine’s day. If no one in your congregation has a deployed loved one, find base Facebook pages, like Tinker Air Force Base, and offer to provide Family Readiness Groups (FRGs) with ready-made packages or letters and money for postage. Don’t ask for a mailing address, they can’t give them out due to Operational Security concerns.

Reach out to Wounded Warrior and Survivor families. Less than two months ago, Lawton lost a native son in Afghanistan, who left behind a wife and two children. Yesterday will be the three-year Gold Star anniversary of a young man I went to church with in Del City. Connect with on-post chapels to learn how to meet those families’ specific needs.

Foster pets for deployed servicemembers. Many single airmen get pets while they are stateside, but have to find temporary homes for those animals when they deploy. Often those pets are victims of abuse in scams to collect money from deployed airmen desperate for dog sitters. Post listings online and in base periodicals of safe temporary homes for their pets.

Remember the service members within your congregations. PLEASE don’t ask soldiers to stand for applause on Memorial Day Sunday. That weekend is dedicated to honoring their fallen battle buddies, and many fight cases of Survivor’s Guilt. Forcing them into the spotlight that weekend is often a painful reminder that they are able to be with their friends while their fallen comrades can’t. Recognize and pray over soldiers as they deploy, not on a specific holiday, and remember them in prayer while they are gone.

Above all, never stop praying for our men and women in uniform and their families. Pray for their physical, emotional and psychological protection. Pray for the well-being of the families of deployed troops. Pray for the ministries of military chaplains and for protection over military marriages. Pray for the families who have lost loved ones in the line of duty. And thank God on their behalf that one day wars will cease and all of God’s creation will live in true peace.

Love thy airplane neighbor

Love thy airplane neighbor

Since long before TSA sucked all the fun out of air travel, airplanes have been my favorite form of commute.  My favorite thing about flying? Naps. There’s no TV, no dirty dishes, nothing to distract you or demand your attention.

Unless you get seated next to a talker. Nothing ruins a good nap like a talker. I’ve even had someone try to sell me insurance on a flight!

On my last trip, I had a very frustrating day of travel. One flight left late, the connecting flight left early, and I was stuck in the airport waiting for the next available flight. I was hot, tired, frustrated, and hungry. The last thing I wanted was a “cattle car” experience to finish the trip. So I forked out the nominal fee and sprung for a First Class upgrade, hoping it would increase my odds of being seated alone or with someone who didn’t feel the need to share their life story.

The plane boarded and at first it looked like my hopes would be realized. My neighbor sat down with earbuds in and didn’t even make eye contact. I settled in with my book and prepared for a quiet trip home.

Then it was time to “turn off all electrical devices.” Out the earbuds came, and he dove into a two-hour long monologue about his childhood, marriage, career… As I listened to him talk, I couldn’t help think that I was being cheated out of my highly anticipated quiet time.

Commence guilt.

I recently finished a Bible study which included a brief discussion on the author’s view that airplane neighbors are divine appointments, God-ordained opportunities to share the Gospel to a captive audience. I appreciated her perspective, but decided that wasn’t for me. Plane time is my nap time.

Throughout the flight, that idea rolled around in my head, refusing to leave. Still, I said nothing. Partly that was because I didn’t know if I could get a word in edgewise. But also, I am shamefully out of practice when it comes to telling a complete stranger the Good News.

Finally we arrived at our destination and began to deplane. He started to leave and I said, “I really enjoyed talking to you. Every night, I like to pray for people I meet, is there something I could pray for you about today?”

And sure enough, after telling me all the wonderful things about his life, suddenly he confessed that there was an area that wasn’t as good as he originally presented it, and asked for prayer. We said goodbye and left.

It wasn’t the Roman Road, but I did pray for him that night, for his situation and the hope that someone taking an interest in him and offering to pray for him planted a seed that others would water.

Maybe next time I’ll be a little slower to curl up for my nap.

Rest your weary soul

Rest your weary soul

“Do your work for six days but rest on the seventh day so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female slave as well as the foreign resident may be refreshed.” Exodus 23:12

How much does Yahweh love us? So much that He specifically set aside one day every week so that we could rest and “be refreshed.” He created us in His image, after all, and He rested on the Seventh Day.  It only makes sense that His divine design is that we are created to rest.

But what happens when we can’t find that day of rest?

One of the aspects of being an Army spouse living through a deployment is learning how to do “it all” solo. Literally, “it all.” All the house. All the kids. All the bills. All the “keeping family up to date.” All the community involvement.

There’s not a lot of time for rest.

One night I was laying in bed after days of non-stop activity and facing more to come, my body aching from hours upon hours of constant motion, my “day of rest” too many days away. My spirit cried out to God, “How on earth will I keep going?”

Then, in a clear answer to prayer, I remembered a lesson I heard once about how Jesus is our Sabbath, our perfect Sabbath rest. Hebrews 3-4 tells us that the true Sabbath, true rest and restoration, is found in Jesus. “For we who have believed enter the rest…a Sabbath rest remains, therefore, for God’s people.”

I have access to the Sabbath rest at all times because I have access to Jesus at all times. As that truth presented itself anew to me, I prayed that Jesus would share with me an extra portion of that rest to prepare me for the days ahead.

That night, God blessed me with the best night of sleep I’d had in weeks, and a peaceful calm and focus the next day.

What a comfort to know that our Heavenly Father loves us enough to provide His promised rest not only in eternity, but in this life as well.

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Walking by faith

Walking by faith

“I don’t know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future.” “When you can’t see where the train is going, trust the Conductor.”

We’ve all heard them, the altruisms that tell us to hold on and have faith during times of uncertainty. And while they are inspirational, they don’t always measure up during times of serious or prolonged uncertainty.

I met my husband when we were 13 years old. When we grew up, we had a plan. Finish college, get married, buy a house, work for a few years, have some kids, raise them around our families. Maybe get a dog.

We had a plan.

Then things changed. My husband felt drawn away from his profession and to joining the Army. And after a year of praying and exploring options, he swore in on July 17, 2009. Less than 6 months later, we had sold our house and were living in different states while he attended training. We had no idea where we would be living or even what his actual job would be once that training was completed.

We waited to find out where we would be stationed. We waited to find out what his job would be. We faced constant changes to training schedules that ultimately resulted in him being absent for more than ¼ of the year before he deployed. And then we waited for deployment, not knowing exactly when he would leave almost until he did.

Now we are in the midst of a deployment and we have a good idea of approximately when it will end, but not an exact one, thanks to factors outside our control like federal budget cuts and adjustments to military goals. And we still don’t know when we’ll be able to start a family.

During all this, God has allowed us to learn what it truly means to walk by faith and not by sight. I’ve never said the words “I don’t know” as much as I have the last couple of years. At first it was stressful. Now, I can say “I don’t know” and feel assurance. “I don’t know” simply means “I’m letting God decide.”

Oh, I’m not saying there’s no more worrying, no more doubt, no more difficulty giving up my own plans. I haven’t mastered patient waiting. At the same time, I’m lengths ahead of where I used to be.

The funny thing is, the only way I was able to learn how to trust God in uncertainty is to walk into uncertainty. Maybe that’s just me, maybe I’m a slow learner. It wasn’t something I could learn first and then say, “Okay God, I’m ready to give up making plans and knowing what my life will be like 6 months from now.” It’s strictly on-the-job training.

But that’s why it’s called faith.