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.

Joyfully,
Cheryl

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People or Puppets?

choiceMy Reader, do you realize that you just made a choice? Right now you are choosing to read my post rather than to not to be reading it. Multiple times a day we choose what we do or what we do not do. We choose what words we say and what words we do not say. We choose what thoughts we think and what thoughts we do not think. There is tremendous power in choice!

When I was a child, I liked to play with hand puppets. With one puppet, I pretended that it said what I wanted it to say by moving its mouth with my hand and disguising my voice to make it sound like the puppet was talking. Another puppet allowed me to move its hands by moving my fingers that were inside the fabric of the puppet’s hands. No puppet had a mind so it could not think any thoughts of its own but I could pretend that my puppet thought whatever I wanted it to think. Puppets and people are very different. God creates people while people make puppets. The reason God created mankind was because He wanted to have fellowship with us. However, He desires for us to choose this personal relationship with Him, so He has given us a free will. God created us out of love and He desires us to love Him, but He wants us to make the choice to love Him. God does not want us to love Him just because He said so.

Deuteronomy 30:19 says, “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” (highlighted by author) This is a choice Moses presented to the Israelites in approximately 1407 BC and it is still a relevant choice for us today. We make daily choices and we also make choices that have consequences of greater impact. In Cast of Characters Common People in the Hands of an Uncommon God, Max Lucado writes about how God gives us an eternal choice that has eternal consequences. He develops this concept through the scene of the three crosses at Jesus’ crucifixion on Calvary. Lucado asks the question, “Could it be that the other two crosses symbolize one of God’s greatest gifts? The gift of choice.” One criminal chose to repent of his sins and asked Jesus for forgiveness while the other thief simply insulted Jesus. Their choices determined where each of them would spend eternity. Jesus gives us the same choice today. Have you exercised your freewill to choose Jesus as your personal savior? If you have not made this positive choice, you have already made a negative choice of not having a personal relationship with Him. The choice is yours: life or death – blessings or curses.

Now let’s apply this freedom of choice to our nation, the United States of America. On November 8, 2016, we as the people of this nation voted to choose Donald Trump as our next president. Choosing our country’s leaders is a unique privilege we as Americans have because of our democratic form of government. Now on January 20, 2017, we will observe the inauguration of our new president. During this historic event, we, as a nation and as individuals, have another choice. We can choose to support or not to support our president. Although some people may not be happy because the candidate of their choice did not win the election, I believe that now we as a nation need to choose to respect Trump as he serves in the office of President of the United States. We must not allow our personal self will to become selfish. We are to be a nation of unity.

I believe Jesus stressed the importance of unity when He in prayed in John 17:20-21, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (highlighted by author) Jesus felt the need to pray for unity, because He knew that unity would only happen if believers made that choice. As Christians, our initial choice is to accept Jesus as our personal savior and then we continue to make choices in agreement with the plans and purposes of God. Going back to the early 1400s BC, Joshua addresses the Israelites after they crossed over into the Promised Land. He concludes by presenting the people with a choice. Joshua 24:15 says, “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (highlighted by author) Joshua not only gave the people a choice but he also stated his choice by saying that his household would serve the Lord. God trusts us to make decisions. He gives us the opportunity to choose because we are people, not puppets.

My Reader, what choices are before you today?

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

Memorials for Memorial Day

 

 

flags-and-stonesMost of us are looking forward to the upcoming long holiday weekend observing Memorial Day. It is a sobering fact that many people do not celebrate this holiday as it was originally intended. Memorial Day was instituted as a federal holiday in the United States to remember the men and women who died while serving in our country’s armed forces. It originated after the Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers, but by the 20th century, the honor was extended in memory of all Americans who have died while in military service.

Today I want to think about how we can best fulfill the original intent of Memorial Day , but before I do that I want to share some scriptural background for creating memorials. In Joshua 4, we find the story of Joshua leading the Israelites across the Jordan River  into the Promised Land.

And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the
Jordan. He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants
ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed
the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan
before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the
Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before
us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the
earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you
might always fear the Lord your God.”
Joshua 4:20-24

After 40 years in the wilderness, Joshua wanted to be sure future generations would remember the faithfulness of God in leading His people out of slavery and into freedom. As the Israelites crossed the Jordan River on dry ground, Joshua had one man from each of the 12 tribes carry on his shoulders a stone from the dry riverbed to the other side. With these 12 stones, they erected a memorial. The purpose of this memorial was to be a thankful reminder to the people of what God had done as well as it to be a structure future children would ask about. It would provide the opportunity for adults to share their story of deliverance with generations yet to come.

WWII_Memorial from wikipedia LINKviet nam memorial widipedia LINK

When I apply the scriptural account of Joshua building a memorial in the Promised Land to our remembering those who have given their lives for our country, I think about national monuments that have been built in Washington D.C. Right now I want to focus primarily upon the memorials erected in honor of veterans of World War II and the Vietnam War. I want to emphasize these two memorials because there are people still alive who served in these two wars. Visiting these memorials has brought healing to many men and women of our country. However, as we celebrate Memorial Day this year I suggest that we do more than just look at monuments we have built in honor of these military heroes. My Reader, do you know a veteran from either of these wars who you could visit on Memorial Day? Ask them to share with you some of their experiences. I realize soldiers often prefer to forget what they have encountered and I want to respect that but I also want them to know that we still care about what they did for our country. I want them to know their sacrifices are still appreciated.

The stories of soldiers that we may be privileged to hear are part of our nation’s history. Textbooks and news articles record one aspect of history but personal perspectives give us insights beyond the facts. Stories help historical facts come alive. Although I do not know the original source of the following phrase, I like its message. “Our story is HIStory.” Whether it be the story of Joshua leading the Israelites into the Promised Land or the individual story of each United States veteran, there is a tale to be told. Each story is a page of history and each story has the potential of being HIStory when God is given His place of honor within the story.

My Reader, I encourage you to make Memorial Day 2015 a day of honoring both the living and the dead. If you know of fallen heroes within your family, please honor them with flowers and flags on their graves. If you have friends and family who have previously served in the armed forces or are currently serving in our military, take time to thank them for their services and listen to their stories. Following the example of the Israelites who erected the stone memorial, may we remember that we are a nation under God. May we also follow Joshua’s example by honoring past generations and sharing their stories with future generations. There has been and continues to be a high price paid by our citizens in order for the United States of America to remain a free nation that honors God.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

Another thought: I have focused upon the members of our armed forces today. However, I also encourage you to take time on Memorial Day to share with your children stories about the history of your family ancestors whom they may not have had the privilege of knowing. I also encourage you to make HIStory part of your family story that will be part of your genealogy.