Wreaths across America for our Veterans

To be killed in war is not the worst that can happen.
To be lost is not the worst that can happen…
to be forgotten is the worst.
— Pierre Claeyssens (1909-2003)

May we never forget the men and women of our armed forces! In a few days we will celebrate Veteran’s Day. It is an official United States public holiday that honors US veterans and victims of all wars. It is observed on November 11, the anniversary of the end of World War I. What an honor it is to recognize those who have served and are serving in our military.

I became aware of the highlighted statement when we visited the National Wreaths Across America Headquarters in Columbia Falls, Maine. We learned the history of Wreaths Across America.

Here is the story.

Morrill Worcester was 12 years old when he won a trip to Washington D.C. He never forgot the trip. Arlington National Cemetery made an indelible impression on him. He did not like seeing graves without wreaths. His goal became to someday place a wreath on every grave in Arlington. Over the years, he became a successful businessman. He felt his good fortune was due to this nation’s values and the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country.

In 1992, Worcester Wreath Company had a surplus of wreaths near the end of the holiday season. Remembering his earlier experience at Arlington, Morrill realized he now had an opportunity to honor our country’s veterans. With the help of others, wreaths were placed on the graves of an older section of Arlington that seldom had visitors. This tribute quietly continued for several years.

In 2007, Wreaths Across America was formed as a non-profit organization. Fast forward to 2014. That year, Wreaths Across America and its national network of volunteers laid over 700,000 wreaths at 1000 locations in the United States and beyond. The goal of covering Arlington National Cemetery with wreaths was met when 226,525 wreaths were placed on graves. Now, each year wreaths are placed at Bunker Hill, Valley Forge, the Pearl Harbor Memorial, and the sites of the September 11 tragedies as well as in cemeteries.

This wreath-laying event is held annually early December. This year it will be held on December 15, 2018. Not only are wreaths placed in Arlington National Cemetery, but also at more than 1400 additional locations in all 50 states, at sea and abroad.

The mission of Wreaths Across America is to Remember, Honor and Teach. REMEMBER our fallen US veterans. HONOR those who serve. TEACH your children the value of freedom.

As we honor our military personal on November 11, may we help fulfill the mission of Wreaths Across America. May we never forget these men and women who sacrifice their time and safety every day to preserve our freedoms. Forgetting is the worst thing that could happen to them.

 

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Dot-to- Dot


Do you remember doing dot-to-dot pictures when you were a child? Following the numbers from 1 to 20 (or higher), I would make a picture of an animal or a flower or whatever else might appear. If I did not follow the number sequence correctly, the picture would not turn out as expected.

I think God may have a big dot-to-dot picture in mind for our lives. The Lord says in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Each of us creates a unique picture designed by God. According to Psalm 139:14, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

As a child, I made mistakes in my dot-to-dot books and had to erase improper lines and try again. Most likely, we will make a few mistakes while completing our life pictures because Romans 3:10 says, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” Thank God for His holy eraser of forgiveness that allows us to erase and retrace a few of our steps. According to I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” There are times when we draw lines between dots according to our own will rather than those directed by the number sequence. These choices may disfigure the image God originally designed for us. However, He is willing to work with a few of our distortions. Proverbs 16:4 says, “The LORD works out everything to its proper end.”

Like a child who may be required to redraw some of the lines of his picture, we may need to make a few changes in our lives. We do not always get it right the first time. Hebrews 10:36 tells us, “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.” The Lord simply requires us to keep trying. Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Within the passage of Ephesians 5:15-18, Paul cautions, “Therefore be careful how you walk. . . . Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. . . . Be filled with the Spirit.” To apply these words to a dot-to-dot picture, maybe we should say, “Be careful how you draw your lines. Don’t be foolish, but follow the correct numerical sequence. Help is available.” My mother would help me if I could not find the next number of my picture. Today, we have the Holy Spirit as our helper when we are making decisions. Jesus says in John 14:26, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Romans 8:26 assures us that the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.

Our preference may not always be the way our life picture is to be drawn. We may not like what the dots involve. However, we are reminded in Romans 8:28-29, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.” Our final life picture will reveal the image of Christ in us. Graham Cooke has said, “You are here for one purpose only and that is to be made in the image of God. Every single situation, oppositional feature, difficult person, everything is designed to make you in the image of God.”  That means every dot! 

We are given guidance in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your hear. And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Although we may not understand why some dots are included in our life’s picture, we need to remember Psalm 33:11, “But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.” God has a whole book of dot-to-dot pictures including the images of all the people of the earth. God’s plan does not begin and end with each of us individually. He has a greater eternal purpose in mind for all of His people.

Let us agree with the words of Job 42:2, “I know that You can do all things; no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” May we remember I Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This includes times of joy and sorrow – times of adversity and prosperity.

No matter what we encounter while connecting our dots, we have the promise of Hebrews 13:21. God will “equip us in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ.”

As a child, I remember sometimes singing while drawing dot-to-dot pictures. This may be a good idea for us today. David says in Psalm 34:1 NLT, “I will praise the LORD at all times. I will constantly speak His praises.” With God’s help, the final picture of each of our lives will reflect the image of God. According to II Corinthians 3:18, we are “being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Our lives are not just a bunch of unconnected dots of happenstance or coincidence. Our lives are God ordained. My Reader, along with Paul, I am “encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory.I Thessalonians 2:12.

Untangle What Is Tangled

A friend shared about her granddaughter getting a brush entangled in her hair. Way too many snarls! My friend was able to release the brush by massaging hair conditioner into her granddaughter’s locks of hair.

As Debbie and I talked, we compared her granddaughter’s experience with how we can become entangled in worldly situations. We need the anointing of the oil of the Holy Spirit to free us from our snarls of life.

Scriptures help validate this concept.

The Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin,
so we receive God’s promise of freedom
only by believing in Jesus Christ.
Galatians 3:22 NLT

My friend was able to free the brush from her granddaughter’s tangled hair. Hebrews 12:1 says sin easily entangles us. So, we need freedom from our sins – our entanglements with worldly ways. Faith in Christ is our solution.

If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
John 8:36

Physically, a brush was no longer stuck in the little girl’s snarly hair. Spiritually, this verse confirms our freedom from spiritual snares and sinful snarls.

When people escape from the wickedness of the world
by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then
get tangled up and enslaved by sin again,
they are worse off than before.

II Peter 2:20

When trying to free the brush by herself, the little girl only created more tangles. The same is true for us. We need help to be released from our entanglements. Christ frees us from the snarls of sin. Nevertheless, we must be aware that it is possible to become entwined again. Then we would be in a worse situation.

The Spirit helps us in our weakness.
Romans 8:26 ESV

Neither Debbie nor her granddaughter were able to release the entangled brush. Applying hair conditioner was the answer. Little by little, Debbie applied more conditioning solution. Little by little, she was able to untwist the brush from the knots in the hair. There are times when we are twisted by temptations and knotted in snarls of sin. We may become too weak to get ourselves out of these situations. However, there is help for us – the Holy Spirit is our spiritual conditioner. In John 14:16, we are promised that the Holy Spirit will be our Helper forever.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves
be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1

Debbie hopes her granddaughter learned a lesson through the knots in her hair. However, she also realizes it could happen again. The same is true for us. Christ has set us free. However, knots of iniquities can again tie us up – we can become yoked to slavery. Be strong in the Lord – stay free!

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in
My name,
He will teach you all things and bring to
your remembrance all that I have said to you.
John 14:26 ESV

Grandmother helped granddaughter with her hair. The Holy Spirit is our Helper.

Fall Down or You Will Fall Down

A single little leaf freely fluttered to the ground. I picked it up. It had fallen from a tree. As I examined the leaf, a realization dropped into my mind. Let me share it with you.

Fall down, or you will fall down.”

Let’s explore the meaning of this leaf message together.

The first “fall down” can refer to worship and humility.

Psalm 95:6 says, Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” When we worship God, we lift Him up. We focus upon God – not ourselves. We take a lower position while elevating Him as Lord of all. We surrender to Him as we fall down.

When we give the Lord this place of honor, we allow our lives to be more about Him and less about us. Proverbs 22:4 says, “Humility is the fear of the LORD.” This type of fear refers to a reverential fear or a feeling of awe. This is worship.

I Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.” When we fall down in humility, God picks us up. Isaiah 29:19 tells us, “The humble will increase their joy in the LORD.”

May we follow the example of the angels in Revelation 7:11-12. “All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: ‘Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!’”

We now move to the second “fall down”. In this case, it can be a description of moral descent – falling into sin when yielding to temptation.

Psalm 25:9 says, “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way.” Falling before the Lord in humility will keep us from falling into sin.

Matthew 26:41 encourages us to, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Paul says in Ephesians 6:10, “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” Finding strength in the Lord will help us not fall into sin.

I John 2:1 says, My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” The leaf I held in my hand could not be reattached to the tree from which it had fallen. However, if we fall because of sin, there is forgiveness and restoration for us.

Proverbs 18:12 says, “Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.” This verse warns us, “Fall down, or you will fall down.”

Joseph Prince has said, “I am falling out of love with sin and falling in love with God.” He sets an example of how to not fall into sin by falling down in humility.

Philippians 2:9-11 says, “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him (Jesus), and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Paul says in Ephesians 3:14 NLT, “I fall to my knees and pray to the Father.” May we follow Paul’s example and fall in prayer so we do not fall into sin!

God’s Hand and Your Hand


I look at my hands. Two appendages – one at the end of each arm. Five fingers on each hand. I am right-handed. Some people are left-handed. I am handy at some things – at other things, I’m not so handy.

What about the hand of God? What has God previously done with His hands? Is He still using His hands today? Scripture will help answer these questions.

 I am He; I am the first, and I am the last.
My own hand laid the foundations of the earth,
and My right hand spread out the heavens;
Isaiah 48:12-13
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim t
he work of His hands.
Psalm 19:1

God has had His hand in everything since the beginning of time. God used His mighty hands to form things. He formed the mountains and deserts and seas. He also formed you and me.

But it was because the LORD loved you
and kept the oath He swore to your ancestors
that He brought you out with a mighty hand
and redeemed you from the land of slavery,
from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Deuteronomy 7:8

God extended His helpful hand to Moses as he led the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery. I can imagine God placing one hand on Moses’ shoulder. With a finger on His other hand, He pointed the direction He wanted Moses to take His people. God’s hand was a hand of leadership that led with love.

Your arm is endowed with power;
Your hand is strong, Your right hand exalted.
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne;
loving devotion and truth go before You.

Psalm 89:13-14
with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm,
His love endures forever.
Psalm 136:12

The Psalms give us wonderful references to the righteous right hand of God. I can envision the Psalmist snapping a couple of spiritual photos that portray the Lord. He might begin with a picture of God’s powerful arm. Then he might zoom in the camera’s life lens to get a closeup of God’s hand.

After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them,
He was taken up into heaven
and
He sat at the right hand of God.
Mark 16:19
Exalted to the right hand of God, He (Jesus)
has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit
and has poured out what you now see and hear.
Acts 2:33

I think more than a handshake took place when Father and Son were reunited in heaven. I can see God the Father wiggling His strong finger to beckon Jesus to Him. Actually, God probably was waving His whole hand and arm when motioning for Jesus to sit beside Him. Now Jesus is seated at His Father’s right hand, a place of honor. Today, He hands us the help of the Holy Spirit.

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands
Isaiah 49:16
For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Isaiah 41:13

God wants to hold our hands. He desires to get very personal. We cannot get away from His hands because He has imprinted us upon His hands. It is hard for me to comprehend how large His hands must be if He has all of us in His hands. At the same time, He holds our hands individually to show each of us our unique path. My hand is small. His hand is huge. Yet, He places my hand in His hand.

This reminds me of the American spiritual He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands. God’s hands are strong enough to hold the whole world and yet sensitive enough to hold a little tiny baby.

Yet you, LORD, are our Father.
We are the clay,
You are the potter;
we are all the work of
Your hand.
Isaiah 64:8
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10

God’s hands created our hands for a purpose. However, we do not have to accomplish this task alone. In When Heaven Invades Earth, Bill Johnson says, ““Revival is a true move of God’s hand. . . . When God moves in revival power, people look on, not as critics, but as people in great need of God. Being in a place of great need enables a person to detect when God is doing something new.” May we become aware of our need for God’s hand in our lives!

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand,
that
He may lift you up in due time.
I Peter 5:6

My Reader, do more than read scriptures relating to God’s hand. May you recognize the hand of God at work in you. I encourage you, don’t miss the current move of His hand. Let God’s hand give you a hand.

In a Fog

As I awoke this morning, I rubbed my eyes hoping to see better. It didn’t help. I was still unable to see across the street as I looked out the window. Yup! It was foggy.

Fog is like a thick cloud of tiny water droplets near the earth’s surface. It obscures our visibility. Fog appears when air is cooled to its dew point – where it can no longer hold all the water vapor it contains. Fog most often appears in the fall. This is because the nights are getting longer and the air masses are beginning to cool. The moisture of the land and water surfaces that were warmed during summer now evaporate excess water into the atmosphere.

This is the scientific explanation for fog. However, we can also experience a spiritual fog. A spiritual fog occurs when something obscures and confuses a situation we encounter. We may feel overwhelmed or bewildered. We may become fearful or anxious. We are not able to think clearly.

My surroundings appeared to be in a haze this morning. I could not see clearly. Little by little, the fog dissipated as the sun burned away the excess atmospheric vapor. Spiritual fog also disappears when we let the Son shine in our lives. Jesus says in John 9:5, “I am the light of the world.”

If I had needed to drive to an appointment this morning, it would have been difficult to know where to go or turn. I have encountered similar situations spiritually.

Physically and spiritually, there are GPS devices available. While driving a car, we have access to a Global Positioning System. An automated voice will tell us where to go. While traveling the spiritual journey of life, we have God’s Promises in Scripture. If we do not know where to turn spiritually, we can listen for the guidance of God’s voice. Psalm 119:105 declares, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Isaiah 30:21 NKJV says, “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.”

In his book Intercessory Prayer, Dutch Sheets writes about the inability of unbelievers to understand the gospel. II Corinthians 4:3 says, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.” If something is veiled, it is hidden. We can describe a veil as a type of fog because it can prevent clarity – physically and spiritually. We can say that unbelievers are wrapped up in a spiritual fog. They are unable to see the truth of the good news of Jesus Christ. II Corinthians 4:4 goes on to say that unbelievers experience mind blindedness because they cannot see the light of the gospel. No Sonshine visible! Then in II Corinthians 4:6, Paul says that God “made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” Now there is Sonshine!

The veil of mind blindedness no longer exists when the Son burns through the mind’s fogginess. Psalm 119:130 says, “The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”

My Reader, do you feel like there is a spiritual fog preventing you from understanding and obtaining all God has for you? Be assured, there is no fog too dense for the Son of God to penetrate. John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

I echo the words of Paul in Ephesians 1:18 NLT, “I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope He has given to those He called.” May we remember God is light; in Him there is no darkness at allaccording to I John 1:5.

Trust and Entrust

According to Wikipedia, trust is defined as a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

Where do I put my trust? Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” (I cross horses and chariots off my list of where to put my trust.) Psalm 118:8 says, “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in humans.(I won’t put all my trust in other people either.) Proverbs 3:5 says,Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (I can’t even trust myself!)

Having deleted these items from my list, I choose to trust the Lord. Nahum 1:7 informs me that “The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.” Jeremiah 17:7 declares, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him.” Jesus says in John 14:1 NLT, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in Me.”

Biblical studies point out that the meaning of trust involves more than faith. Trust has a broader perspective that includes reliance on the strength, ability and truth of God and nothing else.

I proclaim with David in Psalm 31:14, “But I trust in you, LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’”

In addition to trust, there is the concept of entrust. Wikipedia defines entrust as “to assign the responsibility for doing something to someone.”

Trusting God is something I choose to do. Then God entrusts me with the responsibility of doing things for Him.

In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus instructs, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” It amazes me that God will entrust me with the task of sharing His Word with others.  God cares about those who have not yet come to have a personal relationship with Him.  He trusts me to be faithful to tell them of His love.  God entrust me with the responsibility of telling them of His plan for salvation. Our pastor, Robert Reeves, recently said, “God is changing one person at a time by one person at a time.”    

In addition to entrusting me with His people, He also entrusts me with gifts that will enable me to fulfill His command. Ephesians 4:11 NLT says, “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.”

I Corinthians 12:8-11 is a list of spiritual gifts God gives to help us. “For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

Romans 12:6-8 says, “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”

I trust God to equip me to do what He has entrusted to me. Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.”

I will not be afraid to reach out to those He has entrusted to me because of II Timothy 1:7 NLT. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

God says in Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” I can be strong because I trust God. I can also trust the Lord to be with me no matter what I encounter. Psalm 37:5 NLT says, “Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust Him, and He will help you.” I can trust the words of Philippians 4:13 NLT, “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

Today I have been thinking about whom I trust. I have also thought about what is entailed with being entrusted with a specific responsibility. I come to the conclusion of Psalm 13:5, “I trust in Your (God’s) unfailing love.”