Tag Archives: Military spouses

10 Prayers for Military Families

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Did you get the blessing?

Did you get the blessing?

The greatest thing you can do for today’s military families is to pray for them.

Prayer activates God’s manifestation and presence into that which we are praying for.

One key area to pray for is spiritual resilience. Spiritual resilience is the fruit, or the by-products of an abiding relationship with Jesus. It means the difference between simply reacting to adverse circumstances as opposed to working through them with God’s involvement.  When spiritual resiliency is present in military families faith makes a genuine difference in their lives and circumstances. Spiritual resilience positions the military family to rebound. Here are 10 prayers for military families:

Spiritual Growth

Having a weak spiritual foundation leaves a military family vulnerable to adverse circumstances. Pray that Christ’s power, His love, and His presence would be manifested in their lives. Pray for God to give them a hunger for the Lord. Ask the Lord to establish a stable and godly foundation in their home.  “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1).

Maintaining a Spirit of Praise

God’s Word shows us that there is great power in praise. Ask the Lord to give military families a praising tongue even when life is hard and things aren’t going well. “I will praise You, Lord, my God, with all my heart; I will glorify Your name forever” (Psalm 86:12). Ask God to remind them that when they pray, even in the most challenging circumstances, God’s power transforms them, their attitudes, and even their circumstances. Pray that God will show them that in giving God all praise the Holy Spirit moves in and brings new insights and a fresh anointing of inspiration and a greater awareness of God’s involvement in their daily lives.

God Provision for Strength

Pray that in times of weariness that God would be their Source of strength. Second Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the entire earth, to strengthen those whose heart is true to him…” Ask God for His Word to revive their hearts and refresh their spirits for renewed strength. Pray that God’s power would be sufficient to face each day in His strength and confidence. Ask God to add a measure of endurance during trials. “May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience” (Colossians 1:11).

God’s Blessing Upon Their Home

Pray that God would be in the establishment of their home, as well as in the building of the “lives” of the home. Pray that the hearts of each military family would come to revere (respect, honor, and awe) the Lord. “Happy [blessed] is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways. You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy [blessed], and it shall go well with you” (Psalm 128:1-2). Ask God for a lifetime attitude of reverence and awe of God to be genuine and evident. Pray that obedience to God’s Word would become a priority in their home, and that God would be an active participant in the life of the home, affecting circumstances to bring about His desire will. Pray for a spirit of unity and forgiveness to be present in their home.

Peace

Pray that military families would cast their cares and burdens upon Jesus. May they take these worries to Him in prayer.  Ask Him to protect their hearts from fear or dread. Pray that they will know that God is on their side. Ask God to encamp around their hearts when oppressed. “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble” (Psalm 9:9).

Contentment

Pray for a quiet trust of God for all of life’s unknowables.  Our humility from the standpoint of Who He is produces trust and when we quietly trust He gives us contentment. His Word satisfies and ruts out discontentment. Pray that military families will always seek God in all their ways. Ask Him to protect their hearts from wandering from His Word. 

An Umbrella of Protection

–As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people” (Psalm 125:1-2). Pray that God’s protection will be like that of the ancient days in which our strong and mighty God surrounded Jerusalem–protecting her. Pray God would also surround and protect military families stationed in all parts of the world.  Protect them from injury, danger, acts of evil, diseases, or calamities. “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me” (Psalm 139:5). Ask God to also protect them by keeping their spiritual resolve strong. “…he will cover you with his pinions, [to restrain someone] and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler” [small shield worn on the forearm] (Psalm 91:4).

Military Marriages

Marriage is hard these days, but a military marriage is like no other with its multifaceted issues and concerns. Pray that military couples will walk in love seeking the good of the other, abandoning pride, anger, disrespect and self-seeking ways. Ask God to draw their heart’s close with a lasting commitment. Pray that they can walk in agreement with one another (Amos 3:3) whether home or deployed. Ask God to give them a heart that desires to honor their spouse. Ask God to maintain a loving attitude towards each other, sprinkled with grace and compassion. While there may be growth when apart, pray it is the kind of growth that adds life, blessing, and meaning to their union. And pray the Lord will maintain a strong spirit of unity within these marriages.

Maintaining a Positive Attitude

Pray that military families will embrace God as the One to place their hopes and expectations in. Ask God to strengthen them in their resolve and spirit to prevent bouts of doubt and lingering discouragement when lonely or insecure. Pray for the Holy Spirit to fill them with fresh hope and wash away any negative emotions. Ask the Lord to lift our military families from any pits of discouragement. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

Being God-Minded

 Pray for times of quiet reflection and meditation so that they can hear God’s spirit directing their lives. Grow in them a love for God’s Word and ask for God’s spirit to govern their human spirit so that they seek after Him and not the things of the flesh. Pray for God’s spirit to lead them into Christ-likeness. May they not “lean on their own understanding” (Prov. 3:5) but trust in Your divine leading. Pray they will walk in the light of God’s Word, so the eyes of their understanding will be enlightened and gain wisdom for how to live a life that pleases God.

See also my article Praying For Our Military here

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!

Lisa

  

  

 

Joy – It Isn’t What You Think

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Joy - It Isn't What You Think.

Joy – It Isn’t What You Think.

 Did you know that the words “joy” and “happiness” aren’t even related? Perhaps the reason why we partner the two together has more to do with the English language, namely, a poor translation of the word “joy” in the English language that misses the target of the original Greek definition. Indeed, joy and happiness are opposites. A right understanding of the Greek word “joy” will not only illuminate the difference between the two words, but we’ll discover another English word that is compatible for “joy”, and it offers another meaning to ponder on this Christmas.

Joy and Happiness are Not Compatible

 Have you ever considered why the word “happiness” is an imposter for the word “joy?” In addition to the two words not being related, consider their opposite meanings. In our materialistic culture, we married joy and happiness together. Our “happiness meter” fluctuates up and down depending on what is happening in our lives.

If we are getting what we want out of life and our circumstances are favorable, we consider ourselves happy, or joyful. And if our circumstances take a negative turn, likewise, we consider ourselves unhappy, or less joyful. The flaw with this understanding is that happiness is tied to emotions.

Word searches for “joy” produces words that describe feelings, or emotions-blissful, thrilled, elated, delighted, pleasant, gladness, and happiness. Therefore, emotions come and go and cannot be relied upon for experiencing genuine joy. In a nutshell, happiness has to do with getting, while joy is about giving. Did you get that? Joy has to do with giving….Interestingly, the word “joy” shares a root word with another important Christian word – grace.1

Christ-followers know that the definition of grace is the unmerited favor from our Lord Jesus Christ. Born with a sin nature, we can never earn grace, but out of God’s immense love for us, He has given Christians unmerited favor. This is because grace should prompt our hearts to respond with joy. Joy, then, is deep grace. And what are Christians called to do? They are to give grace to others. My family’s pastor Craig Laughlin of Marysville Church of the Nazarene explained it this way:

Joy is that fleeting moment as you witness small children opening presents on Christmas morning. This is a picture of unmerited favor. You, as parents, have purchased for them, or put something into their lives that they couldn’t possibly put into their own lives. They cannot earn it on their own.2

 Other examples of joy are: a child’s first step, an “A” on a child’s test, witnessing a troubled teen turn from a life of sin, serving meals to the homeless, stocking a food bank, using a spiritual gift to benefit someone else, and a restored relationship. Joy isn’t about what we get, but what we give away to others. Thus, joy is giving away grace.

Grace is in the parents who guide and encourage their baby to take her first step. Grace is the many hours parents pour into their children to do well in school. Grace is the parents guiding, directing, encouraging, training, and praying­‑pouring their energy into a troubled teen who decides to live God’s way. It’s that “something” we know they can’t possibly do for themselves. Grace (unmerited favor) was given and joy (grace) is the giver’s response. Joy is our response from what we experience when we give away grace. Christ wired us to give to others. Likewise, He also wired us to respond with joy. Consider the words the angel spoke to the shepherds in Luke 2:10: “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”(niv).

 Because of shorter life spans, the shepherds of those early days in all likelihood didn’t live to see Jesus grow up and start His ministry. The shepherds were told of the good news-that the Messiah had come, however, the joy they experienced wasn’t so much for themselves as it was for the benefit of their children and the generations that came after them. For these shepherds who had seen the Christ-child, they realized this baby would change the lifestyle of their descendants. They responded in grace – deep joy in giving away the life-changing announcement for all time. And their joy lasted all their days. Deep in their hearts, these shepherds knew the world would never be the same again.3

 If we, as parents, receive joy as the giver of gifts to our children, who cannot obtain these gifts for themselves, think of the joy God has over His gift of Jesus to us. What He gave to us is meaningful beyond measure­‑something we cannot put into our own lives or obtain for ourselves. The only appropriate response is joy.

Blessings,

Lisa

Notes:

1Pastor Craig Laughlin, “Joy-It’s Not What You Think,” www.MarysvilleNaz.org. (Accessed 20 Dec. 2014).

2Ibid.

3 Ibid.

 

Godly Wisdom vs. Human Wisdom

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Godly wisdom protects us on the road of life.

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you” (James 1:5 nrsv)

The definition of wisdom according to the eleventh edition of the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary is the ability to “discern inner qualities and relationships through insight, good sense, judgment, a generally accepted belief, a wise attitude, or course of action.”

For the most part we would agree the above definition is accurate, but there are two flaws in it that I see. First, it lacks wisdom (understanding and insight) gained from the spiritual element, and second, a generally accepted belief doesn’t automatically qualify as wise living and decision making. Only seeking human solutions is operating in self-confidence. It isn’t sin to use human means to solve our problems, but it is sin to trust them more than God, to think they are better than God’s guidance, or to leave God completely out of the decision making process.1

 School of Hard Knocks

It’s true that we make sensible decisions and judgments from two sources: accumulated knowledge and experience. Worldly experience, whether good or bad is a prudent and intelligent teacher, and God can use our life experience as a rutter to steer us in a particular direction, but how do we make good decisions for difficult circumstances if we lack knowledge, and/or experience? We need the Holy Spirit for that. Providing wisdom is one of the Holy Spirit’s role.

God’s Rich Storehouse of Knowledge

The Holy Spirit will escort us into the knowledge we need. But we must do that intentionally. The key is to daily seek God to reveal His wisdom in all the areas of life we find challenging or in the opportunities we encounter. We need to seek His storehouse of wisdom deliberately and purposely – with hopeful expectation. When we do God will supply and He does so willingly or without reservation.

If you’re a Christ-follower, a generally accepted belief is not always the answer. There are numerous worldly perspectives that are in opposition to God’s Word and do not meet the criteria of ‘wise living.’ This is because God sees all the potential harm, whether physical or spiritual, such as temptation, or what is hidden from our understanding. Many of His precepts, those that are contrary to a worldly view, are there to protect us. If what we are trying to decide on is in direct disagreement to God’s Word, we can automatically rule that option out. The world will often adopt what is easy and convenient, but in my experience God doesn’t subscribe to just what’s convenient. It isn’t always convenient to obey God’s Word, but God blesses those who do.

Second Timothy 3: 16 says, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work” (nrsv).

The Bible is the standard for testing everything else that claims to be true.2 It is our safeguard against false instruction and our source of guidance for how we should live.3 It is one thing to know what to do when God gives us the guidance we need, but it’s another thing to actually do it. And if that’s the case, we also ask Him to equip us to carry it through. “All the paths of the lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees” (Psalm 25:10 nrsv).

Blessings,

Lisa

Notes:

1 Bible Note for 2 Chronicles 16:9, Life Application Bible (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publisher, Inc., 1989).

2 Bible Note for 2 Timothy 3:16, Life Application Bible

3 Ibid.

To order my book, Faith Steps for Military Families, click here. If you’d like a set of prayer cards for our military members and military families, email me at info@lisanixonphillips.com. Be sure to leave your address for where to ship the prayer cards. Free shipping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons From the Wayward Nephew – Lot

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The first recorded war was between 4 kings and money, but it also included a search and rescue mission.

The first recorded war was between 4 kings and money, but it also included a search and rescue mission.

While writing Faith Steps for Military Families, I learned about the Bible’s first recorded war. It’s found in Genesis 14. During Abram’s (later called Abraham) life, wars and rivalries among kings routinely happened, but the first recorded war in God’s Word was between four eastern kings most of us have not heard of before, except for possibly one, King Chedorlaomer (of modern Iran) and five southern kings, that included the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Who was King Chedorlaomer?

Not much is known about him, except that he was quite powerful. It was customary in those days that a city that was conquered paid tribute (money) to the king that overthrew that city.1 Five cities, including Sodom and Gomorrah paid tribute to King Chedorlaomer for twelve years. This is a testament to the might of King Chedorlaomer’s army.

“In the thirteenth year [those five cities paying tribute] rebelled” (Gen. 14:4).They joined forces and rebelled against King Chedorlaomer. They withheld the tribute owed to him. This kind of rebellion infuriated King Chedorlaomer. By refusing to pay the tribute, they predicted it would have a devastating effect to the territory known as the “way of the kings” which was the corridor of commerce between Egypt and the four eastern kingdoms.2 Whoever controlled this land bridge maintained a monopoly on international trade.3

In retaliation, King Chedorlaomer wasted no time and swiftly conquered this quick-forming alliance. When King Chedorlaomer overtook Sodom, he captured Lot, his family, and his possessions. Recall that Lot was Abram’s nephew. Being a prisoner of King Chedorlaomer meant torture, slavery, or death.2

“When Abram [later called Abraham] heard that his nephew had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred eighteen of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and routed them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. Then he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his nephew Lot with his goods, and the women and the people.” Genesis 14:14-16

It’s plausible that Chedorlaomer underestimated the warrior inside Abraham as he defeated King Chedorlaomer in Damascus, even with a measly 318 fighting men. But God showed His favor on Abram. But how did Lot get himself in trouble with Chedorlaomer in the first place?

Lot – the Drifter

Lot had a character flaw that we see in many younger men and women today. Having no firm goals or sense of purpose, he drifted through life.4 Lacking a father (his father died when Lot was a young boy) to act as a compass for his life, probably contributed to his hunger for the sinful lifestyle in the city of Sodom. Coupled with his greedy desire for rich goods, Lot lived for the moment. As a result, he didn’t contemplate the consequences of his short-sightedness. By seeking after the sinful and greedy lifestyle of Sodom, he eventually blended in with the other citizens in this doomed city. This choice cost Lot everything, including his freedom when King Chedorlaomer overtook the town to punish it for withholding the tribute. Wise ole Uncle Abram had to do the dirty work and go to war with King Chedorlaomer to retrieve Lot.

Why Is This Important?

This may have been an incident that crossed several kingdoms–Abram caught in the middle between Lot’s greed and sinful lifestyle and a scandal between kings. It reveals God in control of earthly situations between secular kings and His warriors. God’s men numbered just 318 compared to the armies of the four kings!5

In the midst of a power struggle to control the cash cow of the trade routes, at the center of this scuttle is the story between two related men. Abram knew the foolishness of his nephew’s decisions. He could have taken the approach that Lot got what he deserved and refused to go to war to get him back. After all, living foolishly eventually breeds trouble.

Abram, however, took the perspective of grace. Grace says, “to extend kindness to a person who doesn’t deserve it.” Even God extended grace to Lot by giving favor to Abram to conquer the armies of the four kings in order to retrieve Lot. 

We Were Like Lot Once

Before the Lord reigned in our hearts, we were a Lot, too.6 Prior to giving our hearts over to the Lord, we were lured by the world’s goods and sinful offerings without thinking of the long-range consequences. We allowed our selfish desires to seek and obtain what didn’t satisfy. Sometimes we got away with a sinful lifestyle, but maybe for some of us it led us down the road of trouble. Was there an Abram in your life to go to bat for you? As Lot was carried off by King Chedorlaomer, considered part of the plundered loot, I wonder if he questioned where his lifestyle choices led him.

Is there a Lot in your family? Don’t give up on her or him. Instead, we can be an Abram in that person’s life and pray. James 5:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous (godly and upright) person has great power as it is working” (ESV). Your prayers, prayed in faith, will change things. There is power praying in Jesus’ name and that power will change the course of someone’s life, circumstances, and choices. While praying for the Lot in your life, your own faith will be strengthened as you see God move. We can trust God because He is sovereign over all our circumstances. One of my favorite Scripture verses is 2 Chronicles 16:9. “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the entire earth, to strengthen those whose heart is true to him” (NRSV). God is looking for faithful hearts to be prayer warriors for the Lots in our lives.

Blessings,

Lisa

Notes:

1 Bible Note for Genesis 14:4-16, Life Application Bible (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, Inc. 1989).

2 Officers’ Christian Fellowship, “Abram Goes to War,” http//www.ocfusa.org.  (accessed 29 May 2014).

3 Ibid.

4 Bible Profile on Lot, Life Application Bible.

5 Officers’ Christian Fellowship, “Abram Goes to War,” http//www.ocfusa.org.  (accessed 29 May 2014).

6 Ibid.

5 Ways Our Military Families Are Extraordinary

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Pray for the home front spouse, pray for their marriages, pray for their children, pray for their safety- because America needs them.

Did you know that November is Military Family Appreciation Month? It was started in 1993 by the Armed Services YMCA. This organization was responsible for officially making it an annual proclamation. It’s purpose was and continues to be for recognizing the contributions and sacrifices made by the families of service members. In honor of their dedicated support, I’ve listed 5 qualities that make our military families worthy of our nation’s support.

Passionately Patriotic – One of the reasons I embraced the military lifestyle was the patriotic response I saw all around me as a young and newly married military wife. I had never seen such patriotism until I stood pier side among thousands of other family members for the great homecomings of the warships my husband served on. Military families care deeply about their nation. Deep down they know they are part of something honorable, even though they wear no uniform. They “serve” behind the scenes. When a service member retires or leaves military service, their patriotism, and Americanism lives on. They become the beacon of light to those that follow them in military service.

Military Families are Natural Volunteers – Oftentimes you will find military families volunteering in their commands, communities, schools, and for worthy causes. They are used to the idea of sacrificial service as they live it every day, For many military families volunteering is just part of the military lifestyle.

Military Families are Sacrificial-Even though they don’t wear a uniform, they, too, serve this country. They forfeit holidays, birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and major milestones without their beloved service member. Even when times get downright hard, they endure, knowing this time of extreme difficulty will pass. Deep down there is the belief that their sacrifice matters and contributes, however small, to lasting freedom and the upholding of the core values of this nation. They realize their military member’s service is honorable and worthy of their dedication and commitment. The military family’s commitment and faithful support becomes part of the mosaic of the faithful support of all those that came before them.

Spouses of Military Members – The military spouse who becomes the ‘home-keeper’ has an important role to fill. The spouse’s support is vital to the overall success of his or her service member’s job. If the home is not stable or unified, this has the potential to affect not only the service member’s performance, but also his or her command readiness level. For this reason, military spouses need support and prayer. Although there are Family Readiness Programs , military spouses carry a heavy burden in which circumstances constantly change, adding anxiety and stress.

I knew that marrying a military man would mean frequent moves, but more importantly, I knew it also meant that there would be occasions in my future in which I would have to give up a good job or forfeit that much needed promotion in order to go where the military sent my husband. I chose to look at the positives, such as, the opportunity to live overseas and experience a different culture, which led to wonderful opportunities to write about and share with others. Moving frequently allowed me to further develop my viewpoints about our world, adapt to changes, meet interesting people, experience new things, and grow in confidence.

Extended Family Members – In our case, we were never stationed near family. However, those military families who are blessed with family living near by, we can’t forget their service. Often, grandparents become vital in the lives of military kids. Grandparents are often called on to open their homes to care for grandkids because both parents are deployed or the military spouse needs the additional help. When I returned to school to get my accounting degree I had a seven year old and a newborn. My husband was deployed. After working a full day, I went to class at night. We had two civilian families that came alongside me and watched my kids so I could attend my night class. These families were instrumental in not only helping me with school but also in lifting my spirits when feeling burned out.

Bless Them With A Thank You and A Prayer

When you run into or meet a military spouse or family, bless them with a ‘thank you.’ That ‘thank you’ might just be the encouraging word an overwhelmed military spouse needs to hear to keep enduring a difficult time. Our military families are indispensable. It takes a military family to support the member. Without them, our country has no backbone to support military members. Prayer is the best thing you can do for these military families. Pray for the home front spouse, pray for their marriages, pray for their children, pray for their safety, and pray for our country to remain militarily strong.

Blessings,

Lisa

Post/tweet: November is Military Family Appreciation Month. Learn 5 Ways to Honor Our Military Families. www.LisaNixonPhillips.com/blog

To order a copy of my book, “Faith Steps for Military Families” click on the ‘Order Today’ link just below the book’s cover.

Are You Trusting God for That?

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A red "TRUST" and a gray "FEAR" sit on opposite ends of a gray board which is balanced on a white question mark. Isolated on white.

Our American culture fails in the area of patience. Yesterday I was in line at a grocery store. I had a few small things so I went to the self-check-out area. Every one of the do-it-yourself scanners were busy so I waited by the one that looked like it would be free the soonest. The gentleman at this scanner was wrapping up his purchase. He pulled a few dollar bills out of his front jean pocket began to feed them into the machine. To his frustration, the machine didn’t like the bills and it quickly rejected them.  Each time one of the bills was rejected, he took the bill and smoothed it across his knee and tried again, only to have the machine spit them out again. As I watched, the look on this man’s face was not only growing more impatient with the machine, but he also began to show signs of anxiety. He didn’t look at me directly, but he knew I was there waiting. I decided I was not going to add to his angst.

 “Don’t you hate it when that happens?” I said, trying to let him know I wasn’t getting uptight with him.

“I’m sorry this is taking so long,” he said, with an apologetic tone.

“That’s ok. I’ve had that happen to me a few times, too.”

A moment later, the last bill was finally received by the machine. A small smile of relief came over his face. He grabbed his receipt and bag of groceries and turned to me.

“Again, I’m sorry I kept you waiting.”

 Living in a country where everything is instantaneous, we have lost the timeless quality of patient waiting, and for believers today this includes answers to our prayers. As military wives and mothers, we have plenty to pray over: transfer orders, new duty stations, the upcoming deployment, spousal jobs, financial matters, getting out or staying in the military, children’s concerns, and other prayer needs.

 There have been times where I have been impatient with the Lord, frustrated that He’s taking too long with the important matters of my heart. And I’m guilty of influencing circumstances hoping it would hurry God along in bringing about the answer I desperately wanted. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I hoped He would welcome my efforts being the backseat driver. God’s lateness seemed like He didn’t appreciate my sense of urgency. However, it took awhile, but God eventually showed me that I was getting into my own way. I wasn’t trusting God for my prayer needs. I began to take a look at why I sometimes jumped ahead of God. It came down to one word: fear. I asked myself a series of questions regarding my prayer requests, and the resulting gut feeling was always fear. I was afraid God wouldn’t understand what I deeply needed. I feared I wouldn’t like the way He changed things, or I feared He’d never change things. But deep down, the number one fear was that I didn’t trust God in coming through for me. Not long after this realization, I read an article about what the Christian’s posture ought to be while waiting for answered prayer. While reading the article, I came upon the words something like this, “My dear child, why won’t you allow me to do my job of working it out and you do your job of trusting me?” Wow! those words stuck like Velcro on my heart. Now whenever I become impatient with God’s timing, I remind myself of who’s job it is to change things.

God created all things and that includes time. He numbered the days in a year, hours in a day, and the minutes and moments of our lives. The concept of time, when you think about it, influences every aspect of life. Because God controls time, we can’t assume He isn’t hard at work in the background. This is the nuts and bolts of what “walking by faith and not by sight” is all about. The problem with humanity is that we always want proof. We base everything on whether or not we can see it, touch it, or hear it. But when there isn’t anything evident yet, we start the doubting process. Doubt leads us to question God’s faithfulness. (See my 3-part article series: Doubt, Disillusionment, and discouragement here) To overcome this tendency, it’s imperative to keep our focus on God and His many attributes: loving, good, patient, Omni-present, omniscient, just, merciful, and faithful, among others. God’s faithfulness includes His guidance and answered prayer, but sometimes He waits for us to get out of the driver’s seat. There’s only one steering wheel for a reason.  Picture yourself sitting on the teeter-totter in the graphic above.  Which side are you leaning towards- the trust side in red, or the fear side in gray? Then ask yourself, “Am I trusting God for that?”

Blessings,

Lisa

 

Standing Alone

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As a military wife, do you ever feel you're not in sync with the rest of the world?

As a military wife, do you ever feel you’re standing alone in the military lifestyle?

“The Lord, your God, is in your midst…” Zephaniah 3:17

As military wives, we’re accustomed to standing alone, either physically or symbolically in our unique circumstances. We stand alone on the pier watching the ship pull away, then once out of sight we make that lonesome and uncomfortable walk back to the car. We stand alone as the weeks turn into months. We stand alone when we tuck our children into bed at night, say our prayers for daddy, then crawl into our own bed, longing for intimacy and pillow talk. We stand alone as we continue on with our routine because what is familiar and routine brings comfort. We stand alone on holidays, birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and even the birth of our children. We stand alone on the good days as well as the dark days.

And if you’ve had some particularly hard deployments in the past, you simply don’t want to stand alone anymore. And perhaps you can identify with Jonah. Perhaps you’ve decided that your Ninevah may be somewhere else rather than in the military community. Maybe you’ve had the urge to run from this pilgrim sort of life – a lifestyle that often leaves you in a state of longing. Not just for your husband to return home, but for feeling connected, to be a family again, to make family plans, to start a family, or to simply take your finger off the pause button of life. While the rest of the world tends to live according to the seasons of winter, spring, summer, and fall, we military families live according to the seasons associated with command schedules. We’re not in sync with the rest of the world so this exacerbates the feeling that we’re standing alone.

Even though you are alone physically, remember you’re really not. God is standing beside you. He is everywhere you are. And He goes before you. As a child of His, it isn’t possible to be outside of His reach. I used to remind myself of that when there were long stretches of time with no word from my husband, friends or family.

When my husband would call home from the ship, just hearing him say, “You keep me going at this,” gave me an extra dose of motivation to finish the journey. He was counting on me. But there were also days when inevitably I’d contemplate what life without the military would be like and how my life would be different. But as soon as I pondered on that notion there was another thought that quickly bubbled up to the surface. This thought had a voice to it.

“If he must obey, so can you,” came His deep penetrating voice. “Remember, just like your husband who is counting on you, so am I.”

Our husbands took an oath; they pledged to defend all enemies foreign and domestic and obey all orders of the President of the United States. If it is important for them to obey the President of the United States, how much more important is it for you and I to follow His will. Fulfilling His will for us is paramount in order for our husbands to fulfill theirs, whether inside the military or not.

Yes, you may feel you’re standing alone, but feelings don’t make it so. Our feelings do not change anything about what we know of God. Feelings, I learned, are neither right or wrong, they just are. Joshua 1:5 says, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you…” And Matthew 28:20 also says, “And remember, I am with you always…” And lastly, Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory.”

The military lifestyle is a challenge, but you are the apple of His eye and when you commit your loneliness and solitude to Him, it will be taken care of. Trust Him on this; He’s had lots of practice and He has a good victory record.

Blessings,

Lisa

For a copy of Lisa’s book, “Faith Steps for Military Families,” you can order it here.

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.  

Hello, I Am…Waiting For Better Times

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  O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; [my prayers] in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch [wait]. Psalm 5:3 NRSV

What has the military life put on hold for you?

What has the military life put on hold for you?

In our waiting for God to usher in better times, it can seem like God has forgotten us. We know in our heart it’s not true, but that doesn’t always remove the ache of waiting. Even the ancient Israelites wondered if God had forgotten them at times. But then, God did something so incredibly wonderful that it seemed too good to be true. Have you ever experienced something like that? The author of Psalm 126 wrote about an event that was truly wonderful that it seemed like a dream. “When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream” (Psalm 126:1).
The Crockpot of Waiting
Because the Israelites had been taken into captivity by the Babylonians, their lives took a drastic downturn. Due to their exiled status, their lives and better times were on hold-indefinitely. Commentator James Limburg describes this period of waiting perfectly. “Psalm 126 comes from a people who are living between the times, between a good time remembered and another good time hoped for.”

What about you? Do you find yourself living between the times-between a time filled with fond memories and another time waiting for good times to return again? I have. I recall as a Navy wife in which circumstances were less than desirable and for a span of five years it seemed like life in the military would never yield better times. I frequently wrote in my prayer journal “how long, Lord? When will these discouraging times end?” But God is not concerned about our discomfort so much as He is concerned with molding and shaping us into mighty vessels for His kingdom work as a result of those dry, and disappointing times. It’s as if that period of feeling stuck between the times is God putting us into the crockpot of life and keeping us at the “simmer” setting. We have to patiently bear the wait as the obstacles of our dry circumstances grow and shape our faith, saturating us with the aroma of God’s spirit permeating our lives.

Active Waiting Brings Discernment

Our fast-paced culture desires quick fixes. We want the easy 5-steps for bringing happy times back into our lives or homes. God, however, operates in a totally different fashion. He ordains our days and the circumstances in our lives for our good and His glory. And when we find our lives on hold this is our cue to soak our minds in God’s Word. Doing so enlarges our spiritual perception to better discern our circumstances. “But those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). By anticipating God’s promise of strength, we grow in hopeful expectation that God will move in our less-than-desirable circumstances and usher in better times. The results are worth the wait.

Those Israelites taken into captivity by Babylon were carried away in tears, but their tears of sorrow became the seeds for a future harvest. God did the extraordinary. Seventy years later He used King Cyrus to end their captivity. And this is why it seemed like a dream to them. Something this wonderful had to be from God’s hand.

God still desires to bless His children with events that astonish us-and move us to the other side of James Limburg’s quote to “another time hoped for.” God’s great harvest will come and with it His joy for our parched hearts.

Go and Delight in the Lord today!

Lisa

If you’ve experienced something so astonishing that it could only have been from God’s hand, I’d love to hear from you. Please use the “reply” button at the bottom of this page to share your story. Come visit me at www.Facebook.com/FaithStepsForMilitaryFamilies and ‘like’ my page.