Memorial Day – A Day of Honor

On Monday, May 29, as Americans, we will celebrate what has become known as Memorial Day. Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. Numerous cities claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day but rregardless of the exact date or location of its origins, we do know that Decoration Day, or Memorial Day, originated after the Civil War with a desire to honor our dead. May 30, 1868 was the first Decoration Day. General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery while 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in Arlington.

Over the years, this special day has come to embrace not only Civil War soldiers who lost their lives but to also remember and recognize all those who have sacrificed their lives, living and dead, to serve in our military forces. When we celebrate Memorial Day, we take time to recognize those who are willing to protect us. Today I want to suggest that we expand our perception of those who protect us to include our first responders. These are people who are actively involved in our everyday homeland security.

When I think of our military, I imagine men and woman dressed in uniforms representing the Army, Air Force and Navy. However, I also see our first responders in other types of uniforms. I see police, firefighters and ambulance crew workers in attire signifying their form of service. Our military forces are stationed in countries around the world where they are put in harm’s way. In a different yet similar way, the members of our police force are in harm’s way when they respond to certain calls. I am not diminishing the right for us to take time to honor our military forces. However, I do feel these people are also worthy of our recognition and thanks for their services.

First responders include many people in numerous capacities. Approximately two months ago, we became particularly aware of another specific group of first responders who helped our area. We had a wind storm with 81 MPH wind gusts that resulted in over 100,000 people losing electrical power in  homes. Utility crews were the first responders to this situation. Their uniforms were orange vests and hard hats, Not only were all the workers of our local utility companies working around the clock to restore power, but 290 other utility crews came to aid the restoration process.

I want to highlight three scriptures that remind me of our first responders. When I read I Corinthians 16:13, I think of our National Guard. The verse states,Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” However, all of our first responders definitely show courage and strength. John 14:27 records Jesus saying, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” The peace Jesus offers has a spiritual depth not offered by anyone else. Only the peace of God can enable our hearts to not be troubled or afraid. However, keeping peace within a city is the goal of the police force. There are certain locations within many cities where it is hard to live free of trouble and fear, but our police strive to provide us a peaceful environment. Jesus concludes Matthew 10:8 by saying, “Freely you have received; freely give.” Especially in smaller communities, many firefighters are volunteers who freely give of their time to help others.

Romans 13:7 is a good scripture for us to be mindful of regarding all those who are or have been part of our military forces and civilian responders.Give to everyone what you owe them: … if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” These individuals deserve our respect and honor for their commitment to serve our nation and our citizens. Memorial Day is a good opportunity for us to set aside time to publicly recognize and thank those who protect us around the world and at home. However, they are also worthy of our support and gratitude every day of the year. Our freedom depends upon them.


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My Farmer Father


father-and-son-mfKnow therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God,
keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations
of those who love him and keep his commandments.
Deuteronomy 7:9

 A farmer reflects an accurate father image of our Heavenly Father. With this coming Sunday being Father’s Day, my thoughts turn towards my biological father. He was a Nebraska farmer through and through. The land he farmed was originally homesteaded by my great-grandfather when he immigrated from Ireland. The farm was passed down from my great-grandfather to my grandfather, to my father, and now is possessed by me. The land is farmed by my dad’s step grandson with the help of Dad’s step great grandsons. This is quite a heritage! However, my dad has passed on an even greater heritage than this ground. My dad was well-grounded in his faith in God and he has passed that on to me as well. Yes, I know God has no grandchildren and I am a child of God because of my own choice, but Dad was a positive influence to help me find my own faith. Like my Heavenly Father, my dad was loving and influenced multiple generations in multiple ways. My Farmer Father exemplified our Heavenly Father.

field-mfBut the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word
and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop,
yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
Matthew 13:223

 I am reminded of the parable of the sower recorded in Matthew 13:3-8 with the parable explanation in Matthew 13:18-23. As Dad planted seed in the soil of his fields, some crops would produce better yields than others depending upon such factors as the amounts of rainfall and insect invasions. The soil condition was affected by the plowing and cultivating of the land as well as the amounts of fertilizer applied. Dad was also a diligent father who took excellent care of his family financially and spiritually. Dad planted corn and soy bean seeds into the soil to produce crops that he could sell to provide for Mom and me. He also sowed
imperishable seeds of God’s Word into my soul to provide for spiritual growth. He was an excellent farmer of faith as well as a farmer of fields. Because of his agricultural background, he knew the condition of the soil was important for him to plant crops that would produce high yields. Because of his spiritual background, he knew the condition of the heart was important for God’s seed to produce lives yielded to Him.  Prayer was the tool he utilized to cultivate the soil of my heart. My father’s faith reflected the “good soil” referred to in the Parable of the Sower. He not only passed on to me the “good soil” of the farm land but also the “good soil” of the soul where faith grows. I am very thankful to him for that. Yes, there is value in the land I now own but I place a higher value upon my faith in Christ. My Farmer Father exemplified our Heavenly Father.

book-for-wisdomListen, my son, to your father’s instruction….
let the wise listen and add to their learning….
Proverbs 1:8&5

 God has imparted many words of wisdom to me through scripture, especially Proverbs which is known as the book of wisdom. As I reflect upon Proverbs 1:8, I see how “your father’s instruction” can refer to both my biological father and my Heavenly Father. My dad often sowed seeds of wisdom into my life. After he retired, I remember his telling me that he liked to rent the farm by shares which meant the renter got a certain percentage of the income and the landlord got a certain percentage. He felt this was the fairest way to do business because if it was a good year both participants received a good income but if it was a bad year both parties experienced a decrease in income. However, he went on to say that he could understand why “some women” who owned farms preferred cash rent which meant the renter paid the landlord a set price regardless of the yearly yield. Overall, it was fair because the good and the bad years usually balanced out. I agreed with his comments. Years later when I became the owner of the farm, I understood the viewpoint of cash rent that he shared with me was wisdom for me. Essentially, Dad was releasing me from the hands on decisions of a landlord and giving me his permission to use cash rent in my dealings with the farm. This has been a blessing to me regarding how I now handle farm business. My father has blessed me with financial wisdom as well as spiritual wisdom. My Farmer Father exemplified our Heavenly Father.

shoes-combatHonor your father and your mother,
so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
Exodus 20:`12

 My dad wore work boots when he was in the field. Consequently, I honor him with this image because they remind me of him. I also realize his shoes are not easy for me to fill, but I will follow in his footsteps.  In Romans 4:12, Paul refers to Abraham as being the father of those who walk in the footsteps of the faith.  I am blessed to be able to say that as I walkout my faith today I am walking in the footsteps of my father, Howard McKeag. My Farmer Father exemplified our Heavenly Father. My Reader, thank you for allowing me to share my reflections of my Farmer Father with you. Now, how do you want to honor your father on Father’s Day? Your dad’s shoes probably look very different from those of my dad, but that is the way it should be. Each father is unique. No matter what his occupation, he can still leave for you footsteps of faith that exemplify our Heavenly Father.

 Happy Father’s Day to all Fathers!

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Hugs of Honor for Miliatary Families

Memorial Day (MF)

On Monday we will be celebrating Memorial Day. This is a day to honor the living and the dead who have given their lives for the freedom of our country. It is a privilege and a responsibility to recognize our military heroes. However, I feel there are others who need to be honored on this day as well. These people are the family members of the men and women who have served or are serving in our armed forces.

Right now I focus upon the families who have lost loved ones. Our fallen soldiers had moms and dads, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters along with extended family members and special friends. I want to say thank you to those who sacrificed their loved ones for our freedom as the nation of the United States of America. We honor our fallen soldiers with flags and flowers on their graves and this is the right thing to do. However, I think we also should share the sorrow of the families of these deceased men and women by giving them a hug of honor on Memorial Day.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Matthew 5:4 NIV

This particular scripture verse comes to my mind for these families this weekend. When I think about how God might bless these family members, I perceive God’s presence and anointing being available to those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. I believe God anoints them with a special strength allowing them to remember the past yet continuing to live their own lives in the present. The Latin derivative for comfort is “com” meaning intense and “fort” signifying strength. I believe God pours out a unique strength upon those who have lost loved ones through our military service.

“Blessed and enviably happy [with a [a]happiness produced by the experience
of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His matchless grace]
are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted!”
Matthew 5:4 Amplified Bible

It takes time for me to comprehend the depth of meaning of this translation. However, I do believe that God cares for these families in a way that allows them to experience a specialized form of happiness. Through the Internet I read an article from Christianity Today that gave me some additional insight. Two quotes remain in my mind.

“EVERY SUFFERING can be blessed because it hollows out a place
in us for God and his comfort, which is infinite joy.”
Peter Kreeft, Back to Virtue.

Families who have lost men and women who were in harm’s way for our nation have a unique hollow or empty spot. Fortunately, we have a God who knows just how to fill their emptiness.

IT IS NOT ENOUGH for us … within the arena of the world’s pain
merely to know of a God who sympathizes. It is not even enough to know
of a God who heals. We need to know of and be connected with a God who
experiences with us, for us, each grief, each wound. We need to be bonded
with a God who has had nails in the hands and a spear in the heart!
Flora Slosson Wuellner, Weavings

Military families may have loved ones who were wounded to the point of death. Now these family members are bonded to God who has a spear in His own heart in a unique way. They can experience a specific bond with God through the way He helps them cope with the loss of loved ones. I like that these families have the ability to be connected with God in a personal way in addition to knowing about Him.

I also believe that we as fellow Americans have a responsibility to comfort those who mourn the loss of Military personnel. Sometimes all of us just need “God with skin on” to help us through difficult days. I believe Memorial Day can be one of those difficult days for military families no matter how many years since they encountered the loss of a loved one. Most likely, they remember their loved ones in a very personal and private way on this day. I want to seek out one or more of these families and encourage them to share memories with me on Memorial Day of the loved one they proudly sent off to serve their country. Although they knew there was a chance of loss, yet they expected their loved one to return. When they said good-bye to him or her leaving for active military service, they did not expect it to be their final good-bye. The lives of military men and women have been lost, but in a sense there are portions of the lives of their families that have also been lost. I want to say thanks to them for giving up their loved ones for my freedom.

My Reader, I encourage you to join me by taking time this Memorial Day to remember both the men and women who have given their lives for our country and the family members who have given the lives of their loved ones for our country. Salute the flags on the graves of military heroes but also extend hugs of honor to their families.

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