Category Archives: Separation

Tattoos – Are They Sinful?

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What Does the Bible Really Say About Christians Getting Tattoos?

What Does the Bible Really Say About Christians Getting Tattoos?

The Air Force recently announced a change in their tattoo policy for service members. This new policy which takes effect February 1, 2017 will now allow both arm and leg sleeves. In addition, the Air Force is doing away with the “25 percent rule.” This rule stated that no more than 25% of a visible body part, say an arm or leg, could be tattooed. However, what hasn’t changed is having tattoos with inappropriate messages, whether wording or images and including racist or sexist tattoos. The regulation continues to forbid tattoos on head, neck, face, tongue, lips or scalp, according to LT. Gen. Gina Grosso, deputy Chief of Staff for the Air Force Manpower, Personnel and Services.1

For Christian service members, is it sinful to get a tattoo? What does the Bible tell us about tattoos and whether or not it is wrong? The most popular Scripture verse that addresses this concern is Leviticus 19:28:

“You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the Lord.”

Get the Whole Picture

If we take Leviticus 19:28 literally without taking into consideration the rest of this passage, without understanding the culture of that time, we would say that tattoos for Christian service members is not allowed. But is this what Leviticus 19:28 really teaches? First, here is the complete passage that includes the references to tattoos.

26“You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it. You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes. 27You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard. 28You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord. 29Do not profane your daughter by making her a prostitute, lest the land fall into prostitution and the land become full of depravity. 30You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.’”

In the above passage, God is addressing the people of Israel. These practices mentioned were habits of the Canaanites. Since the Israelites were God’s beloved people this command was specifically directed to the Israelites to protect them from being corrupted by the habits or customs of the Canaanites. God knew it would lead them towards the false gods of the Canaanites and ultimately draw them into sin. As you can see, tattooing is included in this pagan religion.  

When taken as a whole, this passage is referring to the practices of heathen people groups. The word ‘heathen’ refers to those people who didn’t acknowledge the one true God. The above practices referring to hair and beards go back to what the ancient Egyptians did. The Israelites while in Egypt were exposed to these cultural norms. God required His people to be separate from them, or to be set apart.

Pagan Customs

Verse 28 referring to making cuts on their body for the dead or getting tattoos is another pagan custom. The marking of bodies with tattoos or cuts was a custom done in respect for the dead, however, again, this was a custom the Israelites witnessed during their time in Egypt. So, with that basic understanding, what does this passage say about Christ-followers today? Do we conclude, like the Israelites did, that getting tattoos is sinful? Not so fast…

Christ Freed Us from Old Testament Law

New Testament Christians are not bound to Old Testament laws in order to have salvation in Christ. If we were then we’d also have to be bound to other laws of the Old Testament such as how we wear our hair, the clothes we wear, the food we eat, etc. This, however, doesn’t give us the license to now disregard the Ten Commandments because there are verses in the New Testament that speak to them.

“And he [Jesus] said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”’ Matthew 19:17

Additionally, we are still held accountable for moral laws such as lying, stealing, adultery, and cheating. Sabbath-keeping is the only commandment of the Ten Commandments that is not referenced in the New Testament.

According to Matt Slick, President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, “We see no New Testament commands that tell us to keep the sacrificial system, forbid work on the Sabbath, forbid the shaving of beards, or forbid tattoos, etc. Since we have died to the law and all things are lawful (except sin, of course), then the Christian is not under obligation to keep the Old Testament command not to get tattooed.” Remember, if tattooing is sin, then so are the other elements of this passage. (shaving of beards, working on the Sabbath, etc.),

Freedom in Christ Comes With A Warning

Because Christians are ‘free from the OT Law in Christ’ we don’t have to be unnecessarily worried about any ‘pagan association.’ However, Paul does give us one warning that we do have to observe. We shouldn’t exercise our freedom at the cost of hurting a Christian brother or sister. We must be sensitive to others spiritual and physical needs. Nothing we do should cause another believer to stumble. Simply, what we practice in this life must be for promoting His glory.

So, is it ok then for a Christian to get a tattoo? Yes and No. It boils down to the believer’s motives and opinions. Since tattooing is a permanent marking AND it comes with a particular social stigma, he or she needs to really consider if this is a right thing to do. The Christian needs to determine whether or not getting a tattoo will glorify God and be a good witness to non-Christians. Does the tattoo represent who you are in Christ or does the selection of tattoos merely represent self- expression or body art? Tattoos that glorify our Lord and Savior can be a powerful witness, prompting faith questions or sharing their life testimony, thus giving God the glory. For example, if a Christian is a retired military Chaplain and works with youth in his local church, his tattoos could be a starting point for powerful faith conversations.

One Final Thought…

And finally, those Christians that tattoo their bodies (or pierce their bodies or any other body modification) do not fall from a right standing before God. Since we are no longer under the law– we are in good standing with God. This is because we placed our trust in Jesus and accepted His death on the cross to pay for our sins.

“Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” Galatians 3:24-25 (New Revised Standard Version)

If you’re considering getting a tattoo, come back and read part 2 of this article. A great deal of thought should go into the decision before getting a tattoo. Remember that there are Christians who feel strongly one way or the other about tattoos. Leave room in your heart for grace. 

Notes:

1 Oriana Pawlyk, “Air Force Relaxes Tattoo Policy, Allows Sleeves.” http://www.military.com/daily-news/2017/01/10/air-force-relaxes-tattoo-policy-allows-sleeves.html, (accessed 1/10/17).

If you would like to order a copy of my book, Faith Steps for Military Families here.

If you’d like a signed copy of my book, email me at info@lisanixonphillips.com and we can connect via email. Thank you. Books are $10.00 each and this includes shipping. When you order a book, I will also include a set of my colorful prayer cards that also make excellent bookmarks. Makes a great gift idea!

 

 

 

 

The Two Sides of the Sword of the Spirit

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Did you know that the ancient swords used in battle had two sides for two different functions?

Did you know that the ancient swords used in battle had two sides for two different functions?

As Believers, we know that the Sword of the Spirit is referring to God’s Word. It’s a weapon belonging to the Holy Spirit – and He wants us to use it.

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm…Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:13, 17).

The Ancient Swords

Did you know that the ancient swords used in battle had two sides for two different functions? Centuries ago swords were used to attack the enemy and to protect one’s self. It had two functions–as a defensive and offensive weapon. For this reason, a soldier had to learn how to use it. The ancient swords had two edges which helped to penetrate the enemy with ease as well as to cut in every direction, laying open the wounds of the foe.

In the same way, the Word of God is like the ancient sword. It too can reach and penetrate the heart, but it goes further than just penetrating vital organs. God’s Sword, His Word can also cut deeply revealing our emotions, feelings, thoughts, and the intentions of our hearts. This is why God Word says it is sharper than the ancient sword.

“Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

God’s Sword

Like the sword of the ancient soldiers, the Sword of the Spirit (God’s Word) also has two functions. God’s Word says the Sword of the Spirit is two-edged and it is also to be used defensively and offensively.  It is to be used to defend our faith as well as offensively to pull down strongholds and proclaim the truth of the Bible. It is the Holy Spirit Who reveals the truth to us and the Holy Spirit is our help during spiritual warfare.

Strongholds are a serious matter to the Lord. According to www.GreatBibleStudy.com , “a strong hold is a faulty thinking pattern based on lies and deception. Deception is one of the primary weapons of the devil, because it is the building blocks for a stronghold. What strongholds can do is cause us to think in ways which block us from God’s best.”

Besides being the longest psalm in the Bible, Psalm 119 is a beautiful example of the Sword of the Spirit.

 I cling to your decrees, O Lord; let me not be put to shame. I run the way of your commandments, for you enlarge my understanding…”Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart…”Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain. Turn my eyes from looking at vanities [worthless things] give me life in your ways. (vv.31-32, 34, 36-37).

Because of the destructive nature of strongholds, it is no wonder Satan resorts to the tactic of casting doubt on the Truth of God’s Word. He did it to Adam and Eve in the garden and he still uses this tactic today because it still works.

Pick Up Your Sword

We can’t allow ourselves to become complacent in our faith; we should be training ourselves in God’s Word–reading, learning and committing to memory Scripture. Our Sword , God’s Word does not prepare us to defend our faith if it is never opened and read. How can we defeat the devil in spiritual warfare if we do not train ourselves in how to use the Sword (God’s Word)?

Begin by opening up to Psalm 119 and experience the wisdom, guidance and its truth. God’s Word makes us wise by allowing what His Word teaches us to guide us.

Next: Have you ever heard of the Cloak of Zeal? The Roman army wore it. Although not part of Paul’s pieces of armor in Ephesians 6, it is mentioned in Isaiah and is no less an important piece to put on. I’ll explain what it is and the meaning behind the cloak.

Blessings,

Lisa

Is Your Spouse Deployed over the Christmas Season?

How do you get through the holiday season without your spouse home?

Grace and Grit: Getting Through A Holiday Deployment

I’ll never forget the oddest comment I ever received regarding the military lifestyle. After just starting a new job, my supervisor asked me how I managed to get through deployments, especially over the holidays. My reply was something like, “one day, one week, one month at a time.” To which she replied, “I don’t know how you do it, but I didn’t get married to sleep alone.” I never looked at my military marriage from that perspective because I believed military service is honorable and a worthy vocation. After all, our military protect America’s values and beliefs. Experiencing Christmas is one of those important faith values. Still, that didn’t make deployments any easier.

I read on military.com last year that holidays are like a coin; happy times on one side and stressful times on the other.1 This is especially true for military families enduring a deployment that includes the holidays. The Thanksgiving-Christmas season can be brutal on our emotions, let alone the stress of being separated by thousands of miles. And if not stationed near extended family members, as was my case, keeping up that inner strength takes more than sweet Facebook posts of positive sentiments. It often means knowing Who the source of our help and strength comes from.

Give Yourself Some Grace

When my husband, Ray, left on deployment in mid-August one year, I felt a rip had occurred in our oneness. Deployment blew a hole in our sense of unity that came from family togetherness. Those first few weeks I struggled with an inner battle–a battle between my new reality and what my heart wanted. Before Ray left I wanted him to get going so I could move beyond the ache, but then when he was gone, I wanted that time together back. My feelings were in a flux. And feelings, I learned, are neither right or wrong, they just are, so with each deployment I gave myself a little grace–a reprieve from expecting too much out of myself too soon. I knew these rollercoaster emotions were normal and would ease up.

When Thanksgiving arrived civilian friends invited me and the kids to their home to partake in their Thanksgiving dinner. My kids enjoyed the outing and I enjoyed the fellowship, plus it kept my mind engaged.

 By December, we were now into the four month of the deployment. This fact alone provided a dose of determination knowing we had passed the halfway point. It seemed all downhill from here, except for one unexpected emotional detour.

I was on my way home from an evening class I took after work. Before picking up my children at the home of a neighbor, I stopped at a home improvement center to pick up a few things. Upon entering the store, I noticed the Christmas trees on display. The sight warmed my heart. They reminded me of the four foot Christmas tree my kids and I sent to their dad on the ship two months earlier. Complete with simple ornaments, it arrived in time and Ray set it up in the Chief’s mess. Each time he came for a meal, there in the center of the mess hall was a visual reminder of the love waiting back home.

I continued walking to the isle I needed as holiday shoppers passed by. Then, just ahead of me was a couple probably in their mid-thirties walking with their arms intertwined. As they strolled along, her body leaned into his with their hands clasped together. Their two young kids skipped ahead of them, squealing jubilant sentiments while pointing to yard ornaments of reindeers adorned in lights.

Seeing this family together poked at my emotions. I had been going for months holding up that tough inner resolve, but suddenly, I felt my heart starting to cave. This couple was a stark reminder that we wouldn’t be all together as a family this Christmas. A huge piece was missing. Instantly, my emotions rose to the surface; I couldn’t stop the tears. I wanted to be that family – together at Christmas. As hard as I tried, the tears wouldn’t stop. Embarrassed that I’d be noticed, I found an empty isle and brushed away my tears. How I missed my husband in that moment. Disheartened, I got what I needed in the store and hurried out to my car.  

The Gift of Grit

On my drive home the tears freely flowed once again as discouragement swamped my heart. Feeling forgotten and a bit insecure, I began to dread Christmas Day. With no family in my state, I questioned whether or not the military lifestyle was worth it. I had managed well enough up to this point, but now my feelings threatened to sabotage what inner strength I had. I gave myself the normal lecture reminding my heart that I was in no ordinary marriage. I was in a military marriage and lived according to a different set of circumstances. I put on a brave face and got my kids from the neighbor.

After my kids went to bed, I curled up in my favorite chair and meditated on God’s Word. I turned to the psalms. I was familiar with King David’s story and his bouts of loneliness and discouragement.  Have you noticed when your feelings turn negative, God’s Word has an answer to address them? For my discouragement, God’s answer was Psalm 3:3: “But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, …and the one who lifts up my head.” When downcast, God is our ultimate encourager. For feeling forgotten, I found Luke 12:6,7. “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight…you are of more value than many sparrows.” I’m not forgotten because I’m highly valued and belong to Him. For the grit I still needed to get through Christmas Day, Romans 8:37 offered assurance of His provision of strength. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors…” Then I noticed the words, in all these things–it doesn’t matter what the struggle is, even in the pit of deployment God can provide the needed strength. As I prayed and contemplated my circumstances, God refreshed my heart and improved my outlook.  

On Christmas morning, opening gifts without my husband was still hard, but the kid’s excitement kept me in the moment. Later that morning my husband called. We each had our turn on the phone. Hearing his voice on the line was like healing salve to my heart. “I wish I was home with you, but we’re almost there, dear,” my husband consoled me. “Remember, this is our last deployment.” Those words were the best gifts from heaven that day. They stayed with me the rest of Christmas Day and into our final weeks of deployment.  Later, my dad called, as did my husband’s parents. How God reminded me that the kids and I weren’t forgotten! And that evening I prepared a Christmas dinner of three Cornish hens and all the traditional fixin’s for the kids and I.

Blessings,

Lisa

End Note

1 Dr. Vladmir Nacev, “Handling Holiday Separations,” http://www.military.com/spouse/military-deployment/dealing-with-deployment

Three Subtle Attacks on Military Marriages

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A sailor kissing his new wife.

Use your marital struggles to grow together not further apart.

In 1987 I was a new Navy wife–straight from the land of Oz. And I didn’t know the first thing about the Navy lifestyle; There are no warships in Kansas! So, when I moved to California and met and later married my husband, Ray, I became a member of the larger military family and Uncle Sam became my father-in-law. Thanks to my friend, Vernel, a Navy wife I met at my new job upon arriving in California, she offered a quick lesson one Saturday afternoon on Navy life 101. I learned to expect occasional squalls between my husband and I brought on by rotational deployments with following seas of emotional anxieties. I realized there would be repeated adjustments, unique challenges unlike traditional marriage, intermittent miscommunication, with large doses of trust a certain requirement. On the up side, moments of well-deserved joy at homecomings would be the pinnacle of pride and honor in our beloved military member, all to say this lifestyle is worth it. Either way, I embraced my new role as a supportive Navy wife, determined not to throw up the white surrender flag when the stormy seas crashed in.

Marriage is hard in the 21st century, but a military marriage is not for those with one-sided expectations or a casual commitment. Like a warship undergoing sea trials to test the limits of the workings and maneuverability to determine its seaworthiness, there are also difficult hardships inherent in  military marriages. These challenges will test a military marriage to see whether or not it is seaworthy. Three of the top concerns for today’s military marriages are outlined below.

Selfishness. Last year while driving to work one morning I heard that selfishness is the number one destroyer of relationships. John Paul II said, “The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort, and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” In any marriage, selfishness is a deterrent to a lasting relationship, but in a military marriage, its tolerance is short-lived, potentially sinking your military marriage soon after it departs the pier. Other than infidelity, selfishness left unaddressed, is the fastest channel to sabotaging your marriage, deeming it unworthy for a sea-faring relationship.

There is a new viewpoint out there in our marital culture. Dr. Brad Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, has written about this new perspective of marriage and its enemy, selfishness. “In the new psychological approach to marriage, one’s primary obligation was not to one’s family but to one’s self; hence, marital success was defined not by successfully meeting obligations to one’s spouse and children but by a strong sense of subjective happiness in marriage–usually to be found in and through an intense, emotional relationship with one’s spouse.1

This new view, contrary to the Christian belief of marital love, which highlights Christ’s love for the church, involves freely giving of one’s self to his or her spouse, is short on roots of generosity but deep in self-serving motives and entitlement. One way to stop or prevent selfishness is to focus on spiritual readiness. Instead of asking, “what will make me happy and fulfilled in my military marriage?” ask, “what will make us blessed and fulfilled in our military marriage?”

Unwarranted Expectations. Like selfishness, having idealistic expectations will send tempests into your marriage. Young military marriages in particular will benefit from recognizing that your military spouse has a job unlike most civilian jobs. Even on shore duty, he or she can’t be expected to always be available for wedding anniversaries, children’s birthdays, or even funerals for in-laws. Although the military understands the importance and value of these milestones and events, they can’t appease every request, nor can they be expected to. They must continually balance the needs of the military with military morale and sensitivity to family. I recall halfway into my husband’s military career, he was underway three consecutive wedding anniversaries. I was disappointed, but when I reflect back, was there really anything he could do about it? Try the following to increase the sea-worthiness of your military marriage:

  • Focus on the purpose and value of faith and discuss together whether or not your expectations are warranted and fit the example of faith Christ modeled.
  • Resist the urge to punish your spouse for what he or she can’t change or control.
  • Refuse the impulse to blame your spouse for being in the military.
  • Comparing your military marriage and family’s rhythm and schedule to that of civilian marriages only creates discontentment and plants negative thought patterns that the military lifestyle isn’t honorable service. Even in the civilian sector, there are unattractive job requirements. Albert Einstein once said, “There are two ways to live; you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”

Deception and Distrust. These two undesirable traits are linked. If there’s deception, distrust soon follows. In  military marriages, getting to the first base of trust between you and your spouse is a must. Trust is a raw material that has to be cultivated. Trust is the cornerstone of marriage. It is what binds and links the other walls–unconditional love, commitment, transparency, communication, and honesty together. Conflict is inevitable in marriage. And our jobs as marriage partners is to navigate through trust issues, with sound resolutions, not around them, believing they will fade away on their own. Otherwise, the same storm returns over and over again, threatening to shipwreck your marriage. For trust issues related to infidelity, a couple can’t go wrong with biblical counseling. It may be a needed first step. Doing so will take hard work. There are no easy fixes, but if you’re committed it can lead to necessary discovery and growth. Pastor Chip Ingram, author, and radio host of Living on the Edge said about marriage, “conflict is an opportunity to grow.” Other ways to build trust are:

  •  Be transparent – While on deployment or even short underway periods, be emotionally responsible with your spouse to maintain trust. Share your day, the good and the bad. If you’re the spouse at home, tell your husband or wife what you did that day or week, where you went, people you met with, the money you spent, the bills you paid as well as those you forgot to pay. If you’re the spouse underway, do the same. If on a port call, share the places you went to, venture out in groups with the same sex, how much money you spent, and interesting events you encountered.
  •  Forget being right or wrong. We’ve all been there, but there comes a time when this mindset has to end if what is truly wanted is a healthy and working marriage. Strive for solutions that steer you in the direction of unity.
  •  Reconfirm your commitment to your spouse throughout the deployment. Think of ways that honestly convey emotional trust. Start with “I appreciate that you ________________ (fill in the blank).
  •  When failure happens, don’t give up. If trust was breached, it’s normal to feel hurt and want to shut the offending spouse out. However, if you’re willing, let your spouse know he or she can earn your trust back, but genuine changes that bear results must happen. Put accountability steps in play, but be realistic about time frames. Seek out a counselor trained in dealing with military marriages. Rebuilding trust takes time on the part of both spouses.

 Unfortunately, in a military marriage there are no sea-trials to determine if your marriage will be seaworthy. Once married, the marriage must depart from the pier and the challenges and complexities of this military lifestyle will prove its readiness. But with the support of Family Readiness Groups (FRG), churches that offer a military ministry, and keeping your military marriage as a high priority will help ensure it is lasting and fulfilling.

Blessings,

Lisa

Lisa Nixon Phillips is a retired Navy wife and author of Faith Steps for Military Families – Spiritual Readiness Through the Psalms of Ascent. Visit Lisa at www.LisaNixonPhillips.com and check out her blog page for additional articles on the military lifestyle.

You can also find me on facebook at www.facebook.com/faithstepsformilitaryfamilies.

 Notes:

1 Richard P. Fitzgibbons, “The Selfish Spouse/Relative, www.maritalhealing.com/conflicts/selfishspouse.php (accessed 17 June 17, 2014).

 

Holiday Deployments: 6 Ways to Make the Holidays Notable

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Is there a deployment that runs through your holiday season this year?

Is there a deployment coming that runs through your holiday season this year?

Holiday Deployments

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3).

Even though we’re still several months away from the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays, it isn’t too soon to begin planning for them, especially if your beloved military member will be on a deployment at that time. Deployments that run through the year-end holidays have the potential to cause loneliness and isolation. Communication and feeling connected are vital components for powerful growth during  holiday deployments. During my first deployment that stretched through a major holiday season, I found six strategies that kept a sense of aloneness from completely sabotaging my holiday season.

 1. Have an Agenda in Place. Even before your husband (or wife) has left on deployment, focus on nailing down your holiday plans. Putting plans in place communicates to your children and to yourself that yours and their world hasn’t stop when your beloved service member has deployed. Planned experiences also aid in bringing about the kind of growth you want to see manifested.

Do you live far away from family? Instead of traveling to see them, mix it up, and invite members of your family to spend Thanksgiving with you. Then, if the budget allows, switch, and travel to spend Christmas with them. If that isn’t possible, and you’re the wife at home, join forces with another military wife with a husband also on deployment. Invite her and her children to your home for a potluck Thanksgiving meal. For a more festive event, invite several women and their children over.

For the remainder of the Thanksgiving weekend, put on the calendar one or two activities with just you and your children. Take advantage of the command’s sponsored activities for the kids, plan a day trip to an event or place you and your children have been looking forward to. If staying home for the long Thanksgiving holiday, incorporate simple at-home activities like putting together a care package for the deployed parent and include his or her favorite cookies or treats.

 2. Get Moving. If you are a seasoned military spouse with teenagers, or you want your children to acquire the skill and desire to help others, consider volunteering in a worthy cause. It is widely known that the most effective way to build personal growth is by serving others. In fact, one of the best benefits of volunteering is improved mental and spiritual health. Since deployments have the potential of creating isolation, by volunteering, you reduce your risk of depression. Other benefits include the satisfying feeling of making a difference in other people’s lives and bettering your community. You’ll may even make a new friend with someone you volunteer with, which can then become one of your support systems. Volunteering also builds bridges with other people who share a common interest with the cause you choose to help. If this is new for you and your children, start small and simple. Depending on the type of volunteering, fit your children’s age and skills, including communication skills, to the volunteer activity.

 3. Learn a New Skill. During my husband’s third deployment, I returned to school. He was nearing his time to rotate off of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln and go to shore duty. You don’t have to return to college in order to learn a new skill, but a six month deployment may afford you the opportunity to learn a skill you’ve always wanted to master. Have you always wanted to take a course in creative writing, PowerPoint or Excel? How about something fun like learning to watercolor paint or take a dance class? The key is to find something that contributes to your spiritual and mental health and development. Even your volunteer activities may lead you to discover a new skill you’d like to enhance. By homecoming, you’ll feel more confident about yourself and your abilities.

 4. Seek Out Spiritual Experiences. If leaving a legacy of faith to your children is important to you, participate in your church’s Christmas activities. In each of my husband’s duty stations, we found a church home. As a military family today, you can benefit from churches that have implemented a military ministry. When God is a part of your family, He establishes your home. A family that incorporates faith creates its own unique spiritual bond, enabling the family members to see the military lifestyle through the lens of faith. It is this spiritual bond in which God’s strength is infused and enables the military family to overcome challenges that result in deeper relationships and spiritual unity. When there’s spiritual unity in your military home, it makes togetherness a richer experience and diminishes a sense of discontentment and aloneness associated with deployments.

5. Incorporate Fun and Reflection. The military lifestyle seems naturally bent towards seriousness. To even the scales, we must be intentional about incorporating periods of fun and reflection. Plan simple, yet fun activities like playing board or card games with your kids, or put up a tent inside the house and for one night everyone sleeps in it. Here’s one idea I did with my kids and it was a big hit. Create a story together. The idea is to make the story funny, meaningful, crazy, or amazing. It doesn’t even have to make perfect sense, just have fun.

The parent at home begins the story with his or her paragraph, then each child adds to the story with their own paragraphs. If your child can’t write, have your that child speak their part of the story and another family member writes it down. When everyone has added their part of the story, send it to the deployed parent to read and enjoy (and laugh). Then the deployed member builds on the story by adding in a twist or a surprise. He then mails (or emails) the story back home. Repeat the process several times so you have a beginning, middle, and end to the story. When the deployed parent returns, share the entire story at a special homecoming dinner. This can also be a time when everyone shares points of reflection about the deployment. It is through the exercise of reflection that we can truly measure personal growth.

6. Begin a Deployment Journal.If you enjoy writing in a journal, consider keeping a separate Deployment Journal. Record people and events you’re grateful God put into your life during your deployment. Include your circumstances, prayers, concerns, praises, or anything that was notable during your deployment. You can even include the fun story your family created above (for great laughs later).  When you spend quiet time before God, His peace will still your heart. His peace will protect your heart from rampant worry. And years from now when you reflect back on your deployment journal you’ll seen fresh insights of God’s faithfulness. That is a gift in itself. 

Blessings,

Lisa

 Faith Steps for Military Families – Spiritual Readiness from the Psalms of Ascent uses fifteen psalms to convey biblical concepts for building spiritual readiness in military homes. Each psalm carries a theme and Faith Steps for Military Families translates these relevant themes into the lives of twenty-first century military families. Through vivid pictorial metaphors, the themes cover:

  • Hope for when life as a military family is on hold
  • Understanding how God’s strength and love protects His own
  • Honoring God while living out the difficult military lifestyle
  • How unity builds resiliency in the military home
  • The danger of a complacent faith
  • Seeking God for a downtrodden spirit
  • A deeper understanding of God’s nature as Protector, Keeper, and the Night Watchman, and other topics.

 To order a signed copy of Lisa’s book, send an email to info@lisanixonphillips.com to order a copy. Books are $12.50 and includes shipping and handling. You can also order from Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and Christianbook.com.  

Step by Step

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Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

God not only orders our steps; He orders our stops. -George Muller

The Christian walk of faith is just that–a walk, one day and one step at a time pace. Think about the idea of taking a walk. This implies a short stroll; we amble along at an unhurried but comfortable pace.

 Understanding God’s Blueprint for Trust

When my son was growing up he was fascinated with Legos. He spent hours in one sitting putting together colossal cranes, three foot aircraft carriers, boats, airplanes, semi’s, tractor-trailers, and other structures. His level of understanding of how the Lego pieces fit together was uncanny.  With each new Lego set, he immediately spread out the directions and then categorized the Lego’s into piles, and more times than not, just by looking at pictures he could figure out how each piece went together.  Perhaps you have a child with the same skill. By trusting in the directions or the pictures given, he was assured his Lego creation would come out right and he would be satisfied and content.

Deployments are another example done on a day by day basis. Our impatience wants to rush ahead and get to “homecoming day” so we can skip the middle part that brings about disruption and longing. But God created time in order for us to grow into His likeness. He’s interested in the final outcome – what growth He’ll see as you keep your feet firmly planted on His path. As you mark off the days and weeks of a deployment, you’re making incremental steps and that produces deep roots of growth which reaps blessings of satisfaction and being content.

 The Key Word is “Daily”

Matthew 6:11 says, “Give us this day our daily bread” (nrsv).  When the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, God provided them with manna one day at a time. Matthew 6:11 doesn’t say, “Give us all the bread we will need for our entire journey.”  There was no bulk ordering for the duration of their road trip through the wilderness. God only gave them enough to eat one day at a time (Exodus 16). And they were satisfied. Step by step is God’s way of guiding us along. And the keyword here is daily.

 Jesus also taught with daily in mind. Again, in Matthew 6, Jesus teaches this idea of trusting for our daily needs in a prayer He modeled for us. This prayer, often referred to as the Lord’s Prayer, is our example for day to day needs. It begins with a praise: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed [holy, blessed, sacred) be your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (vv. 9, 10). We start with a praise to God for His work in the world1 and then we address our daily needs,2  and our daily struggles. By praying this way on a daily basis, just imagine, if we recorded in a prayer journal, all the various ways God meets our needs and blesses us in return.

 Let God and His Word guide you by building your faith one step, one day at a time.

Delight in the Lord today!

 Lisa

  Notes:

1Bible Note for Matthew 6:9, Life Application Bible (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, Inc., 1989).

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

 Lisa is also on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/FaithStepsforMilitaryFamilies and on Twitter @lisanixonphilli, Google+ at www.Google.com/+LisaNixonPhillips4487 and LinkedIn at LisaNixonPhillips

 

 

In A Little While

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“In a little while.” These four important words can change our perspective on waiting.

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Jesus said, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me” (John 16:16)

In the verse above, Jesus was referring to his death and then His resurrection three days later. The disciples were saddened about Jesus’ impending death. But they didn’t understand the language Jesus used to explain that after He died they would see him again. To clarify, Jesus used the metaphor of a woman about to give birth. She experiences severe labor pains, and the hour has come for the baby to enter the world. “…you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy” (John 1:20, nrsv).  After the birth of her baby, the mother no longer dwells on the pain because of the joy of finally seeing her new baby.

I cried at my grandmother’s bedside the night she took her final breath.  It was Mother’s Day 1986. When the doctors discovered she was full of cancer it was too late for treatment. She was sent home to live out her final days. Twelve days later she went home to Jesus.  While caressing her soft but lifeless hand in mind, my heart was conflicted. I was relieved that her suffering from an aggressive form of cancer was over, but at the same time, my heart ached. I wasn’t ready to let her go. Her unexpected illness and sudden death seemed surreal. She and I had always been close.

As a teen, I occasionally spent my Saturday afternoons visiting her. She always baked a fresh loaf of bread and brewed our favorite flavor of tea. We spent the afternoon talking about the things on our hearts, how school was going for me, my friends, college plans, spiritual things, stories about my grandparent’s early days, and family history.  As we sipped hot tea from her best china tea cups and enjoyed the warm bread, Cat Stevens, Simon and Garfunkel, the Carpenters, Elton John and Fleetwood Mac played in the background. My grandmother had a sense of humor, too. And it always floated to the surface of her stories sending us into long spells of deep belly laughs with tears rolling down our cheeks.

Not only did her passing away leave a huge hole in my heart, but I was troubled over God’s timing. I wondered, Didn’t God know that I still needed her?  Nine months earlier, my husband (at the time) had left for work one morning and never come back. Heartbroken from his rejection, I couldn’t see past the hurt. However, in hindsight, it was my grandmother whom I believe God used to help discern my situation. My husband had literally abandoned me and broke our marriage covenant. 

For the next nine months, my grandmother was like Jesus with skin on. Living four hours away, she wrote letters every week professing her unconditional love and support, as well as Scripture verses to encourage and strengthen my faith.  More than anything, she wrote about God’s compassion towards those abandoned, rejected and crushed in spirit.

Like it did for the disciples, John 16:16 brings hope to Christian’s today. Twenty–nine years have passed since my grandmother went to be with Jesus. His words “in a little while” still apply and continue to bring hope. With the passing of the years, sadness has been replaced with joyful anticipation.  Faith says to wait on God because “in a little while” I’ll not only see my grandmother, but Jesus as well.

Who or What is Your “In A Little While?”

Are you waiting for your spouse to return home from deployment? When he or she left your heart ached, but take comfort in Jesus’ words “in a little while.” In a little while, you’ll rejoice at his or her homecoming. Are you praying while waiting on a situation to be resolved? Remember, there is an invisible hand working behind the scenes and “in a little while” He will make straight what is crooked. Trust Him to do what’s best. Do you feel agitated, pray, and “ in a little while” God will provide the calm. In cases in which you don’t understand something, pray and maintain obedience and “in a little while” God will bring clarity to the situation. As the days of deployment drag on and you feel discouraged–draw close to–and put your faith in the Lord, (James 4:8) and “in a little while” He will be the “lifter of your head” (Psalm 3:3). Those four words are significant. They were for the disciples when Jesus spoke them. When there’s a longing of the heart involved, “in a little while” becomes alive with new meaning and fresh hope.

Blessings,

Lisa

If you would like to order a signed-copy of my new book, “Faith Steps for Military Families” send me an email at info@lisanixonphillips.com. Ordering through me, the book is just $10.00 and $2.69 for shipping.

Also, come visit me on Facebook, www.Facebook.com/FaithStepsForMilitaryFamilies, and also on Twitter @lisanixonphilli