Finding Comfort in Our Loss

Comfort, comfort my people … a few weeks ago one of my sisters-in-law suffered a debilitating stroke, our music minister from church passed away after a very long, excruciating battle with cancer, two of my friends from church lost their husbands to cancer. During the past year, five of my friends lost husbands, suddenly, without warning. I came to wonder how many times that sick feeling of loss would be multiplied and what could I do to comfort people I care about when the only thing that seemed possible was to pray.

Loss is real. Fear is constant for so many. This Christmas season magnifies the emptiness that has become the new normal for people who are going on without their soulmate. From my recent prayer journal pages – Please pray: My mom has dementia and I don’t know how much longer I can care for her. My son’s wife wants a divorce. My husband said Merry Christmas, he’s leaving me and our kids. I suffer from Lyme disease and am unbearably fatigued much of the time. My daughter needs an operation and has no health insurance. My spouse has just been admitted to hospice care. I have debilitating migraines and can’t get out of bed. My work schedule is ruining my chance for family vacation again. My son is making extremely poor choices and there is no dealing with him.

Isaiah 40:1 “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God.” Do you open an email, read a text, or see a post on Facebook and your heart is broken because your friend is riding out a storm and you can do nothing but pray? I often wonder if David was called a man after God’s own heart because he prayed often and recorded his prayers in the Psalms. Psalm 102:1 is just one where David’s endurance has dissolved “Hear my prayer, Lord; let my cry for help come to you.”

Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever reach the end of your strength and say, “Lord, do you even see me here? Do you care that I’m exhausted from just too much? This is just too much.” God used David’s poems, songs, and reflections to comfort, comfort His people. Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Sometimes I do things backward. God should be my first choice, not my last resort. When I woke up this morning I heard the song in my mind “All is well. All is well.”  god-should-be-our-first-response That is such a comforting, heartwarming thought. Psalm 143:8 “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.”

In chapter six of Matthew, there are descriptions of how to pray and even some guidelines for the attitude that’s pleasing to God. In Matthew 6:6 we read one option “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Does this mean before we can pray we have to find an empty room? Thankfully not! We are invited to pray anytime, anyplace, for any reason. We pray for shattered hearts to be healed Psalm 147:3 “He heals those who have a broken heart. He heals their sorrows.”

every-morning-psalm-143We pray for direction when lives have been turned upside down by turmoil; we ask for acceptance when we have to bear the consequences of decisions made outside our control. Our faith takes a beating, doesn’t it? In these times, acknowledge what God tells us in Isaiah 48:17 “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”

When every ounce of energy we have left wants to shout, “Really God? Is this really the plan you have for me? How am I supposed to get through this one?” Let’s scan a few statements here in Jeremiah 10 … “No one is like you, Lord; you are great, and your name is mighty in power… God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.” This verse is key for today just as is was back then. Jeremiah 10:23 “Lord, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps.”

We have to go forward, move past the calamity, rise above the chaos, and clear out a lot of torn feelings all cluttering the path to joy. Remember happiness is circumstantial and sometimes our circumstances have no characteristics close to happiness. Joy comes from believing that God’s plan is for our ultimate good. Jeremiah 29:11 “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.”

Before that next cup of coffee, before returning to the TV, before making that phone call, remember Psalm 6:9 “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.”

Comfort, comfort my People says your God. All is well. All is well.

When is Christmas?

Christmas isn’t Christmas till it happens in your heart. I read an article today that started out something like this. “There’s an old saying that it’s more blessed to give than to receive. I disagree with that … and then the author goes on to explain her point.”  The truth is, that old saying is a direct quote from Jesus as written in the book of Acts 20:35.  It is more blessed to give than to receive, and deep in our hearts we know giving is first an attitude of the heart. For some, a giving spirit seems to be part of their DNA, where others have to be reminded because it doesn’t come naturally to them.

We all know how to give from our possessions and give back of ourselves. We feel good when we have helped someone else feel good. Think about the last week. Without dwelling too intently on the subject, you can probably think of a number of things you have given away. At the grocery store you may have contributed to a food pantry. You said yes when the cashier at the dollar store asked if you would like to donate a toy to a military family. At the gas station maybe you dropped your change into a container where money is being collected for a community member who needs medical care. You baked and shared. You put in extra money when the offering plate was passed at church. You threw a few dollars into the Salvation Army Red Kettle, maybe more than once. Your list could be exhaustive – it could reflect your exhaustion with giving. So that’s why I don’t want to dwell on giving material things.   what-is-most-important-matthew-23-23

For now, set all that aside and think about giving that comes from the heart. Wait! Isn’t that what we were just discussing? Giving is an attitude of the heart. Yes, yes it is. But in all the giving of things we can touch and feel, God has something even more important for us to give. In Matthew 23:23 Jesus sternly spoke to people about being good about giving money away but they were failing miserably at giving justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Jesus leveled their attitudes and called them out for their motives. Early in the chapter, Jesus warns people about following leaders who had knowledge but were bad examples. Their motives were all messed up. There hearts were calloused and pride made them impenetrable to acts of justice or mercy or faithfulness. Jesus told the people, “Don’t forget what is most important. Justice, Mercy, and Faith.”

People have needs. People need each other. We are all people. Keep giving. Keep helping. Keep loving. In our giving and helping and loving from our abundance, let’s remember to share abundantly from our hearts with justice, mercy, and faith. Let’s think before we post or speak.  Listen at heart level, accept people for who they are, and be kind. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Smile. If you see someone without a smile, share yours. Be a friend. Tell someone they matter.

Christmas isn’t Christmas till it happens in your heart.  This is a song I learned when my kids were very young. It touched my heart deeply then and I believe it today. Christmas is a date on the calendar, it’s a holiday many people claims as their favorite, it’s a season, it’s a story, it’s family, it’s friends – but Christmas is more than that. It’s the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, the savior.  And Christmas isn’t Christmas till it happens in your heart.  Listen here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXH2lvt5YMA

 

What choice do I have?

Three years ago while at one of my favorite vacation spots, a horse ran over me. That’s all I’m going to say about the place, the event, and the accident that changed my life forever. I made a choice then. I make the same choice every day. I will not let this discourage me, will not allow depression to touch me, and will trust God in the dark for what he promised in the light. I went from healthy to broken in under 60 seconds. When I felt the sting on my head and heard scraping against the pavement, I remember thinking, “This is going to hurt tomorrow.” Then I was in and out of consciousness while emergency first responders saved my life. My head was hurt, my right lung was crushed my shoulder blade was broken and I had a herniated disk in my neck. This was not at all how I envisioned our last weekend of the summer.

I was caught by surprise, but nothing catches God by surprise. I’m one small piece of the puzzle in God’s grand design, but we all know what happens when one tiny piece of a puzzle gets lost. Apparently God isn’t finished with me yet. I’m still living my puzzle piece.

After just eleven days in the hospital, a patient advocate came to my room and said she had some news that might not seem good to me. Mystified, I asked, “What is it?” Apologetically she said she was sorry to tell me I wasn’t going to qualify to go to a rehab facility because I was functioning at a level that disqualified me. If you can just imagine the conversation. Me with a blank stare and her with apprehension. “Are you kidding me? If there is one thing I don’t want to qualify for, it’s rehab.” I still had a chest tube and all the paraphernalia that goes with it, but once I was able to be rid of that, I would be allowed to go home.

Thirteen days after laying on the ground unable to breathe and thinking, “I could die from this,” I was on my way home. The medical attendants and doctors at McLaren Hospital in Petoskey were phenomenal. I was touched one afternoon when an older woman from the volunteer staff came into my room and told the nurse, “I have to meet this Jane Anderson.” I know crazy, right? I was baffled. She had a whole stack of cards in her hand. She said she had been delivering cards to people for over 12 years and never had she delivered as many cards to one person, so she had to meet me. Awwwww what a sweet gesture. Then before I left the hospital several of the nurses each gave me a hand written card. If you don’t think your cards and notes and emails to people matter, change how you think.

A few days after coming home from the hospital a friend emailed me. “Stay strong and positive.  Not sure why I said that to the most positive person around.” Friends I hadn’t seen in months or years stopped over to see me. One of them approached me with a hug and kind compliment, “I’ve noticed you haven’t sounded angry or bitter.” I was caught off guard. How could I be angry or bitter? How can I be anything but positive?

I hope I can explain this so you can apply it to your own circumstances. From the moment I realized what happened I started thanking God for all the things that didn’t happen – and I know I was one breath from death. I had been riding a bike with my then 9 year old granddaughter and her 10 year old friend. When I was told that I was in the hospital and had been trampled by a 2500 pound horse, I’m sure I thanked God a million times that those two precious girls were not harmed. They were 20 feet ahead of me and spared any injury. To this day, three years later I still often stop and thank God that nothing happened to those sweet little girls and that he protected them. Mark 10:16 “He took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” He also protected them.  I get that.

“I’ve noticed you haven’t sounded angry or bitter.” How could I be angry or bitter when I think about what I didn’t get. My scalp was torn away from my skull and required 14 staples to put it back in place. My skull could have cracked, but I didn’t get that. (There are advantages to being hard headed, I guess.) I had a concussion severe enough to do some brain damage that affects my short term memory. It could have been much worse. My eyes were swelled open, but I didn’t lose my sight. God miraculously spared my vision. I didn’t go blind.

When I looked up to see the horse moving forward, I moved to the left as quickly as I could. All my ribs on the right side front and back were crushed. My heart, just a couple inches away, was not touched. My heart could have been smashed, but I didn’t get that. When my ribs got crushed, my right lung was punctured and collapsed. God orchestrated the team of workers who showed up to save my life.

What are the chances that the med station on Mackinaw Island would have a chest tube? How often would a medic be called upon to insert a chest tube, not from the bottom of the lung, which is the normal method, but from the top, down? God sent an ER doctor, who wasn’t supposed to be on the island that day, to stand in for the regular attending doctor. Communicating back and forth with a doctor at the trauma center in Petoskey, it took three attempts but he finally inserted a chest tube to inflate my lung.

My shoulder blade cracked and while it remains the most painful area on my body, it wasn’t shattered beyond repair. I now have this nifty wing on my right side but it healed. I guess God knew I always wanted a badge for something. Maybe not what I was thinking but then as God reminds me His ways are not my ways. My winged shoulder isn’t beautiful but it’s a beautiful reminder of God’s protection and blessing on my life.

That day I was wearing a backpack and every item inside was crushed, bent, or broken. My metal business card case, metal encased notepad, and metal reinforced wallet were bent beyond use, and my glasses inside a hard case were totally crushed. My spinal cord could have been damaged and I could have been unable to walk – but I didn’t get that.

The sandals I was wearing rubbed blisters on my ankles, but my ankles didn’t get broken or sprained. Think of it. I could have gotten broken legs, crushed knees, broken pelvis … I didn’t get that. Choose to be a shining star

I want to tell you the rest of the story.

A friend from our church and his daughter were in the emergency room at McLaren Hospital in Petoskey. Their attending doctor as completely distracted and wouldn’t stop talking on his cell phone. “Wait a minute, doc. Why are you not attending to this young girl whose ankle might be broken? Why are you talking on your cell phone?” How would you feel? I would be irritated too. The doctor apologized and explained I’m trying to help doctors save the life of a woman who got trampled by a horse. That changed everything. In that moment our friend and his daughter prayed for that woman and her life was spared. They had no way of knowing that woman fighting for her life was a family friend. Their whole family left their campgrounds and before heading home came to visit me in the hospital. I didn’t hear this story until sometime later, but even then, I felt the overflow of God’s love and faithfulness.

Do you think prayer is just something you do because it’s expected? Is prayer something you value? Prayer is powerful. Believe God for something big. He holds life in his hands.

Ephesians 3:17, 20 “Let Christ dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”

On August 31, 2013 my life changed forever. It caught me by surprise. God knew all about it. Psalm 139:16 Your eyes saw me when I was inside the womb. All the days ordained for me were recorded in your scroll before one of them came into existence.

You know, every day we have a choice. I could complain that life isn’t fair. I could grouch about my circumstances not being what I was hoping for. I could compare myself to someone else and totally lose out on any form of contentment. I could have a pity party all by myself because nobody wants to go to one of those. I could – but I won’t. And you don’t have to either. Philippians 2 it says to not grumble or complain – and we will be like shining stars. That encourages me to put a positive spin on ‘What choice do I have?’ You’ll see that our choices begin with a thought and thoughts become actions. We become what we think about. Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things.

 

He is risen! Happy Easter!

A few months ago, I took a class where one of the assignments was to think of what qualities we would have if we were fearless and able to accomplish things that, in our own selves, would not be possible. We were told to think of heroes in our lives who already had the qualities we were lacking. I’ve never been a hero worshipper but if it made the assignment easier, I could put my mind to it. My first thought was what would it take to be a hero? I mean from my estimation. Would it be the character who enters a phone booth as a mild mannered young man and bursts forth as Superman, able to leap tall buildings with a single bound? Or would it be a woman who is highly successful and respected around the globe? Or would it be an aging man who has brought millions to hear the gospel, who has written books about being totally sold out to God, and who has lived a quiet life, above reproach? More likely, my hero would be someone I know personally, respect for their wisdom, look up to for guidance, and already seek their counsel.Happy Easter
When we have a hero, what is our ambition? To become like them. We covet their approval. We pursue their advice. We pay attention to their advice and try to emulate their best characteristics. We can’t wait for the time to come when we can get together and have girl talk (or guy talk) And we love them with unconditional love. I have several heroes, people I look up to, respect, would model my life after – at least to some extent, but they are human. While these people have all the characteristics of strong Christian faith and unblemished moral character, they have the vulnerabilities of being human. Today is Easter Sunday. I don’t have to wonder who my super hero is. I can read an entire book about his qualities. As much as I’m able, I want to emulate him.
In my quiet time with the Lord each day, I read a devotional. When scripture is mentioned I read it from the Bible and often write it down. These are just a few of the verses that spoke to me recently about the character I want to emulate.
 
Unconditional love: Jeremiah 31:3 I have loved you with an everlasting love—out of faithfulness I have drawn you close.
Prayer warrior: Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.
Morality: Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, watch over your heart; diligently guard it because from a sincere and pure heart come the good and noble things of life.
Humility: 1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up.
Joy: Psalm 119:2 Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts.
Practice the presence of God: Philippians 4:4-9 Rejoice in the Lord! Keep your gentle nature so that all people will know what it looks like to walk in His footsteps. The Lord is ever present with us. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
I went to see Passion of the Christ when it came out a few years ago. “See” is a euphemism for something that didn’t happen. I spent the greater share of the movie looking at the back of the seat in front of me. You might remember that the entire movie was done in subtitles, but I was paralyzed, unable to look at the screen. It was brutal and horrific to see 200 years later, imagine the experience in real life! Isaiah 53 is the story told before it even happened. I won’t copy it all here, but read it for yourself. It’s the tragedy of the cross. No cinematography required.
Jesus is my hero. He lives in heaven, but he also lives in my heart. Jesus said in John 14:6 “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” My prayer is that Jesus is your hero too. He wants everyone to be saved and understand the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4) He is the unchangeable, miraculous, constant companion, we can look up to, emulate, and love. Jesus deserves our ultimate hero worship.
Isaiah 53 Jesus was despised and rejected. it was our suffering he carried,our pain and distress, our sick-to-the-soul-ness. We just figured that God had rejected him, that God was the reason he hurt so badly. But he was hurt because of us; he suffered so. Our wrongdoing wounded and crushed him. He endured the breaking that made us whole. The injuries he suffered became our healing. The Eternal One laid on him, this silent sufferer, the sins of us all. And in the face of such oppression and suffering—silence. Not a word of protest, not a finger raised to stop it. he went—oh so quietly, oh so willingly. Even though he did no wrong by word or deed. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.
He is risen. Happy Easter!
Worthy, worthy, is the lamb who was slain . . . Kari Jobe – Revelation Song

Let’s play a game: Fresh Look Friday

OK! Everybody up! Rise AND Shine!  It’s Friday – Let’s play a game. Come on. You know you want to. We’ll call it Fresh Look Friday. Have you ever heard of Pay-It-Forward? How about Random Acts of Kindness? And here’s one. Have you ever heard someone transform the words of Luke 6:31 which clearly says “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” so they become “Do unto others before they do unto you?” I know. Those play on words usually projects a negative connotation, and that’s what looking through the lens of Fresh Look Friday is all about. Let’s change random to intentional and let’s put back the original intent of Luke 6:31 “Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you.”

Before we start, here’s some background for the ‘Pay-it-forward’ tradition. I’m going to take a wild guess that you didn’t know it began with King Solomon. It surprised me too, but look! King Solomon, the wisest man on the planet started it back in Proverbs 3:27-28 “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them. If you can help your neighbor now, don’t say, “Come back tomorrow, and then I’ll help you.” See? Pay-it-Forward, when you can. God’s words through King Solomon says nothing about cleaning out your wallet. He just asks us to “do good…when it is in within our power”.

Doing good will always cost something, but so does doing nothing.

We’ve all heard about someone in the drive-thru having their ordered paid for by the car in front of them. I was the recipient of one at Starbucks. Funny how most of these performances are enacted at Starbucks or McDonalds.  That in itself brings on the happy. But let’s think real life. We all have limited resources. I don’t know anyone who has an unlimited supply of cash, lives with hours of unused time, and has no idea what to do with the white space in their life.  We could all use some added white space in our lives.

Let’s see … already low on cash … our time runs out before the day is barely started, how will we perform an Intentional Act of Kindness?  There’s your answer. Start with one. Do just one … then repeat “when it is in within our power”. We’ve all heard it’s easier to be pulled down into a pit than pulled up out of one. There’s a fast track to the downward spiral of defeat  – well why not on this Fresh Look Friday create an upward spiral of inner joy? Mother Teresa is credited with saying “We can’t do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”  I might not have that exactly quoted, but it’s close.

So let’s start here with Intent: Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Get the inside right: Luke 6:45 puts it this way. “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

The outside will take care of itself: 2 Thessalonians 1:11 “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.”

The only requirement for an Intentional Acts of Kindness is that it be from a heart with right motives. Ready? Here are some ideas to kick-start your intent.

  • Leave a note on someone’s desk that says – I hope your day is fantastic today!
  • Send an email message to anyone in your contact list to say you’re thinking of them. It can be a 5 second communication.
  • Leave a bag with some quarters in it at the Laundromat with a card that makes it obvious that they are left Intentionally.
  • Visit someone who can’t get out on their own. Elderly, shut-in, disabled
  • Take a meal or small bag of groceries to a family
  • Mail a post card or letter– the kind that go through the post office
  • Smile and Intentionally say “Hi!” with a smile … and when you say “How are you?” really, really mean it.
  • Make some small cards or buy gift enclosure cards in advance and randomly write kind words, a Bible verse, or encouragement. Drop them into grocery carts or bags as you pass people leaving the store, leave them on desks, on a car windshield (when there is no rain in sight), you can figure it out.  Pretend you’re in the secret service. You are, sort of.
  • OK so sure, pay for someone’s order if you have the resources and you are lead to do so.card to say thanks to servers

The person on the receiving end of any of these Intentional Acts of Kindness will be blessed, and you will be too.

“I have had great joy and encouragement because of your love, for the hearts of others have been refreshed through you.” Philemon 1:7

A few years ago, I printed up some cards with the text shown in this photo, to hand out to people who serve me in restaurants or at retail stores. So you see, blessings aren’t always tangible, but they are felt in the heart like a laser light show of joy. I promise.

 

 

 

Super Bowl 50 … Afterglow

I’m curious. Did your team win? Not to gloat or anything, but mine did. Go Broncos! My oldest daughter, who passed away in 2010 was a diehard Broncos fan. She knew every statistic of every player, had strong opinions of strategies used on the field, and even wrote to the head coach with her advice. I have his reply in her mementoes, a letter thanking her for sharing ideas and then explaining why it was his job to make the best decisions. Tammie’s cats were named after her favorite players, John Elway and Herschel Walker. Broncos fan all the way. super bowl 50 broncos sweatshirt

Most of the time, I have no favorite team and who wins isn’t important, but I confess I prayed more than once for the Broncos to win last night. For three days I wore Tammie’s official NFL Broncos sweatshirt, and asked God to give them victory. Maybe that seems strange to you. Really? Bothering God with something as fleeting as a football game? That’s the thing about God. He holds the whole world in his hands but he still cares about individuals and what they hope for.  David’s words in Psalms relay this over and over.

Psalm 4:1 Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

Psalm 86:1 Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.

Psalm 86:15 But Lord, you are a God who shows mercy and is kind. You don’t become angry quickly. You have great love and faithfulness.

Psalm 90: 16 Show your servants the wonderful things you do. Show your greatness.

God is merciful and kind. God is love and he isn’t just the representation of greatness, he is greatness. My team didn’t win because I prayed that Super Bowl 50 would end in victory for the Broncos. I don’t know why God honored my insignificant prayer. Win or lose, nothing in my life would change, but for my daughter, who is in heaven and not even slightly concerned about NFL stats, I wanted this win. I prayed for the win and God said yes.

What are you praying for today? To everyone else, it might seem insignificant, but if it’s important to you, it’s important to God.

Psalm 84:12 Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.

Psalm 78:7 They put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

I’m praying and asking God for some pretty big things for friends who are in need. I’m believing he will say yes. I want him to say yes, but while I wait I remember these words. Psalm 28:7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.

Believe God in the dark for what he promises in the light. Have faith. Trust God. ‘Call on me in prayer and I will answer you. I will show you great and mysterious things which you still do not know about.’ – Jeremiah 33:3

Today and Every Day

miliatrt wallToday is November 11th, the day all across America we celebrate Veterans Day. In case you’re curious here’s the canned definition of how it came to be: “Veterans Day was originally established to honor Americans who had served in World War I. The national holiday is celebrated on November 11, the anniversary of the day World War I ended in 1918. Today Veterans Day honors veterans of all wars for their patriotism and willingness to serve in the military and sacrifice for our country.”  This article From the Denver Post fully describes the unfolding of what started out as Armistice Day and has become Veterans Day.

I’m not overly sentimental, but there are times when my heart empties itself and I am overcome with emotion.  Maybe some of these have the same affect on you. Hearing the Star Spangled Banner, watching parades where veterans lead standing tall as they march, the car with Gold Star moms whose hearts were broken at the loss of a child who died while serving our country, listening to active duty men and women talk proudly of why they serve, hearing Taps played at the end of a military ceremony, reading quotes by military leaders who understand the sacrifices behind the words “freedom is not free”.

I sometimes think we romanticize the military, seeing it as all Dress Blues, clean CamoWear, and emotionless facial expressions. Right? It’s not like that. Being in the military means separation from family and friends, not for a few days but for many long months. Say good bye to sleeping in and lounging around in your jammies while watching cartoons or reruns of Seinfeld. Forget the freedom to jump in the car and go shopping or to the movies on a whim. That soft, comfy bed you sleep in at night? None will be found in the military.  The fluid schedule we love as civilians is traded for a stiffly regimented agenda. Most of all, for those who serve in any one of the five branches of the military, they have to be ready to detach from the familiar and go places where safety is non-existent and security evaporates with the ravages of a war that’s real.  That paragraph is a minimalist description and doesn’t come close to defining what it really means to serve in the military.

Today and everyday – be thankful for men and women willing to give up years of their life to assure the freedom of our country. If you know someone in the military, personally thank them for what they are doing for all who live in the United States. It’s never too late to write a card or email and send it to someone who craves the familiar of home but is immersed in the foreign.  Support is more than standing up for a parade or holding your breath through the stanzas of God Bless America. The next time we are at a ceremony where they pay tribute to each branch of the service, let’s stand and promise to honor, respect, and support our active duty service women and men. Then let’s find tangible ways to do that. If you need ideas, put a comment in the space provided and I will reply with a source to get you started.

The song for today Proud to be an American – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVhnaVAQeTo