Monday, May 29, 2017

The Meaning Of Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day.  Often times, this day is treated simply as part of a fun, three day weekend where people gather, grill out, and have fun.  Goodness, I'm all for those things, but it is vital for us to pause and remember what this day really is about.

The Department of Veterans Affairs describes Memorial Day this way:

"Memorial Day is a day for remembering
and honoring military personnel who died
in the service of their country, particularly
those who died in battle or as a result of wounds
sustained in battle."
So on this day, we pause and remember those military men and women who died in (or because of) battle.  They made the ultimate sacrifice.  And they gave all they had to give.
I decided to do a little bit of research on how many Americans have died over the years while serving their country in battle.  What I learned really opened my eyes to how many people have perished over the years while on duty.  Just consider how many lives were lost in the following wars...
World War I - 53,402
World War II - 291,557
Korean War - 36,574
Vietnam War - 58,220
Persian Gulf War - 383
Iraq War - 4,412
War In Afghanistan - 2,351

Then I read some accounts of what it is like to lose someone you love in military service.  Alva James-Johnson wrote about Kim Benford Weaver, a nurse, who lost her husband, Staff Sgt. Jason A. Benford.  He died in 2005 while he was on his second deployment to Iraq.  "There's not a day that goes by that you don't think about him," said Kim.  She was just one of many, many people grieving the death of military personnel.

Many Americans today will decorate the graves of these heroes with flags and/or flowers.  It's a way to say "Thank you", and "I remember you."  And this will take place all over the country.

If you're like me, you haven't lost a relative or close friend in military service.  I personally have not travelled that road or felt that pain.  But I can tell the grief weighs heavily on the hearts of those who have endured that experience.

There's nothing wrong with having some fun today.  We all would probably benefit from that.  But in the midst of a day off, may we all pause and acknowledge the true meaning of Memorial Day.  It's about remembering those who have died while serving their country and defending freedom.

In closing, here is a prayer I've written for this day.  Feel free to join in and pray this too, if you'd like.  It's how I choose to remember what this day is really about:

"Almighty God, today is Memorial Day.
It's that special time where we remember
those who lost their lives in, or because of,
military conflict.  On this day, I lift up
in prayer to You those grieving families
who have lost a loved one in battle. 
I ask that You graciously and lovingly
pour out your comfort on those hurting families.
Please soothe their aching hearts and help them
through their season of grief.  On this Memorial
Day, I remember those who died, and their families. 
And I know that You do too.  Thank You for
being the God who cares about hurting people.  
I pray this in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Happiness On The Diamond

My son is playing baseball for the first time this year.  It's all new to him, but he's having a blast.  And I've enjoyed watching him learn the game.

Recently, he got his first base hit.  His bat hit the ball towards the shortstop, and Emerson raced to first base.  He made it just in time, and was called "safe" by the umpire.  Needless to say, we all cheered and rejoiced.  My parents were there to see it, and they were mighty proud of their grandson too.

In the midst of our brief celebration, I noticed something.  A boy on the other team was playing at first base.  He knew that was my kid's first base hit, and he did something really classy.  He gave my son a high five.  It was a cool moment of great sportsmanship.

And it reminded me of something very important:  Be happy for other people when things go their way.

If we're not careful, we can fall into negativity when other people succeed.  We know this is the case when we begin to think things like...
"He doesn't deserve that promotion.  I work harder than he does."
"She doesn't deserve to marry a guy like that.  I know what kind of person she's been in her past."
"He doesn't deserve to be the starting pithcer.  I practice way more than he does."

A better way to respond to the victories of others is to be happy for them.  This requires humility and selflessness on our part.  And it protects us from being miserable and in life.

Of course, another key to this is realizing we have our own blessings to be thankful for.  God is good to each of us every day.  He extends to us grace for our souls, forgiveness for our sins, strength for our battles, wisdom for our decisions, peace for our hearts, and assurance for our future.  Keeping this in mind helps us to be more content with what we already have, and it makes it easier for us to be happy for those around us when good things happen in their lives.

Part of growing up spiritually is wanting the very best for other people.  This is what Paul was saying when he wrote the following words in Philippians 2:4 - "Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others too."  Did you catch that?  Life is about more than the person who stares back at us in the mirror.  It's also about the other guy or girl who also is trying to have a good life.

That first baseman for the other team showed tremendous sportsmanship towards my boy.  His happiness on the baseball diamond made life even better for Emerson.  And it showed he has a good heart.

May God help us all to be happy for others when good things happen in their lives.