Tag Archives: military veterans

The Poppy Lady

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“We come, not to mourn our dead soldiers, but to praise them.” Francis A. Walker

Do you know what the red poppy symbolizes?

Do you know what the red poppy symbolizes?

Did you know that the red poppy flower is the traditional flower for Memorial Day? Do you know the interesting story of how it came about? It began with a poem and one woman’s pledge to not forget the lives that mattered.

In a 1915 poem titled, “In Flanders Fields,” written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s, he writes about the ultimate sacrifice made by those fighting for America in World War 1. An American teacher, Moina Belle Michael read his poem and it became her inspiration for the idea of the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy. Then, in 1918, Moina wrote a poem called, “We Shall Keep the Faith.” It was written in response to the words Lieutenant McCrae penned in his poem, calling on America to catch the torch tossed by those who died in the first world war. Moina took her inspiration one step further by pledging to not forget our soldier’s sacrifice, to honor their service and to remember them–for each one mattered. And to keep the faith. Because of Moina’s dedication the red poppy also serves as the symbol for war veterans.

Soon after, disabled veterans made poppies out of silk to raise funds for rehabilitating veterans and to provide assistance for their families. Thus, the red poppy became the symbol for supporting our veterans. This practice continues today. The veterans of the American Legion make crepe poppies. The money raised from the sale goes to the rehabilitation of disabled and hospitalized veterans in communities across our nation.

Moina Michael’s unique story for how the red poppy became the symbol of remembrance is told in her 1941 book, The Miracle Flower – The Story of the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy.

Oh! You who sleep in Flanders Fields,

Sleep sweet – to rise anew!

We caught the torch you threw

And holding high, we keep the Faith

With All who died.

 

We cherish, too, the poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led;

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies,

But lends a lustre to the red

Of the flower that blooms above the dead

In Flanders Fields

 

And now the Torch and Poppy Red

We were in honor our dead.

Fear not that ye have died for naught;

We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought

In Flanders Fields.

-From the poem “We Shall Keep the Faith” by Moina Belle Michael

So, how can we make this Memorial Day more meaningful, more significant? Wear a red poppy! If someone comments on it, then you can share the story of Moina Michael and how her efforts to keep the torch going for 99 years has made a difference in the lives of our veterans and those left behind by the fallen.

 

Keep the faith,

Lisa

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.

 

 

Three Spiritual Battles that Undermine Spiritual Readiness (Part 3: Discouagement)

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How do you handle discouragement?

How do you handle discouragement?

 The third spiritual battle that can undermine our spiritual readiness is discouragement. Sometimes we become discouraged over a circumstance that doesn’t improve. We’ve asked God to intervene in our situation but for whatever reason His hand hasn’t moved in its midst. Our earnest prayers go unanswered. Perhaps the timing isn’t right or God is still orchestrating behind the scenes or His moving in our situation is dependent on the heart moving in another person.

 We can also become discouraged over a physical condition, too. Maybe our illness is chronic and it pulls our spirits down.

 And then there’s the all too common cause that can propel us into discouragement–when other people fail us. (see part 2 on disillusionment below). What we thought or believed about the other person turned out to be false. We were counting on this person and he or she didn’t come through. Who hasn’t had that happen?

 Pastors can become discouraged, too, when someone gives their heart to the Lord, but later turned his or her back on God. This happened to Demas, one of Paul’s co-workers. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul is sitting in a prison cell and writes, “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica” (v.10 nrsv). Demas loved what the world offered and chose to leave his faith. This deeply discouraged Paul.

 Believing God has let you down or that He broke one of His promises can also lead to discouragement. You worked hard to build a certain ministry but it wasn’t sustainable. You were convinced it had God’s blessing on it and can’t understand why it failed. And now you’re weary, discouraged, and not sure if you want to try something new for the Lord. You may even be disappointed in yourself. You were so sure that you were in the center of God’s will, but now you have doubts.

 Do any of these sound familiar? All of us have probably experienced one or two of these examples. There is even an example of discouragement in the book of Ezra.

 Ezra was a priest. In fact, his name means “help.”1 After Cyrus, king of Persia allowed groups of Israelites to return to Jerusalem, at the start of their release from captivity in Babylon. The first group was led by Zerubbabel. He encouraged the people to rebuild the temple that was previously destroyed. Unfortunately, wherever there is commitment to God and enthusiasm for a blessed project, not far behind are those opposed. Not unlike today, there are always going to be people in opposition to God’s work.2 Opposition to building the temple became so strong that a cloud of discouragement blanketed the hearts of God’s people.

Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and made them afraid to build, and they bribed officials to frustrate their plan throughout the reign of King Cyrus of Persia and until the reign of King Darius of Persia (Ezra 4:4-5 nrsv).

God’s people didn’t expect this kind of opposition and it totally stopped them in their tracks. They became discouraged and intimidated; rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem came to a complete halt lasting about sixteen years.  But when God has a plan nobody and no earthly king can spoil it forever. What could be done to turn this bleak situation around? God sent two people uniquely suited with a gift of encouragement.

Two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah are attributed to reviving the temple rebuilding project. They not only encouraged the people to return to rebuilding the temple, but they physically got involved by working side by side other laborers. Despite continued opposition, the temple was finished in about four years. Their focus was reverted back to God and this enabled them to push through their discouragement.

 When we feel discouraged it’s natural to turn our focus inwards. We fall into the “woe is me” mentality when we take our focus off God and turn it inward. Be careful of this–this is where Satan wants us. By focusing on ourselves, we have the propensity to become bitter, resentful, and doubtful. And our godly perception becomes skewed. Even if you initially don’t feel like turning to God, resist that urge and come before the Lord. When fighting mind and heart battles, we will fare better on our knees in prayer, acknowledging God is the source of all encouragement. Like in the story of the rebuilding the temple, God will send just the right people to encourage our hearts.

Push Through Opposition

If you noticed in the Ezra story, as soon as God’s people returned to rebuilding the temple, the opposition came out of the woodwork again. The Persia-appointed governor of Israel and his cohorts challenged them. Essentially, the Israelites were questioned by whose authority were they allowed to return to rebuilding the temple. Although this question may have been used to intimidate, God’s people continued to build while the matter was under appeal.

When faced with opposition it’s easy to allow others to discourage us from doing the Lord’s work. If we let their opposition intimidate us, our discouragement will cause us to become paralyzed with fear. If that happens we become less effective. To offset the burden of opposition, recognize we are workers for God.5 We should be faithful to God’s work first.

 God Uses Others

God brought Haggai and Zechariah, two prophets to be encouragers for God’s people. God will send just the right people into your life to be Jesus with “skin on.” You know these people. They have a word from God or Scripture on their tongue to give you just enough encouragement to take the next step forward with God. Welcome these encouragers.

 Get Back to God’s Work

A bad case of discouragement kept God’s people from working on the temple for many years. However, a few encouraging words gave them their courage and strength to begin again. It is the same with us, even if we’ve been away from doing God’s work. When God gives us a project after a long dry season He will also give us the encouragement and strength to do it, whether that encouragement comes from His Word or through people He sends into our lives. There is even encouragement inherent in the words we hope to hear someday, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Returning to God’s work is one of the best ways to send discouragement packing. Even simple tasks like sweeping the floors of a food bank, folding clothes at Clothes Pantry for those in need, or simply listening to a soldier telling his war story to start the healing process of a wounded soul. To overcome discouragement often means getting back into the mission field for God’s eternal kingdom.

Blessings,

Lisa

Would you like to read another article about unanswered prayer called, “Are You Trusting God With That?” If so, click

Remembering Good Times But Waiting For More?

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Happy Couple

Are you waiting for better times to return?

“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.”

Psalm 126:1

While the ancient Israelites were in captivity by the Babylonians, they no doubt recollected on better times, but due to their exiled status, better times were on hold–indefinitely. However, God did a new thing for His chosen people. During the reign of King Cyrus, God turned the tide of the Israelites circumstances. He “stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia” (Ezra 1:1). Cyrus set free a group of Jewish exiles, allowing them to return home. Psalm 126 describes this period of great elation for these ancient Israelites. The author of this psalm rejoiced over a significant event that seemed too good to be true. In fact, the psalmist said it all seemed like a dream. “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream” (Psalm 126:1).

Commentator James Limburg describes this time 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.”1 What about you? Are you in a period of dry, disappointing times? Do you feel that you’re living between two realms–between a time filled with fond memories, and another time waiting for good times to return again? While in this difficult season, have you taken your distress to the Lord in prayer? Have you asked God, “How long, Lord? How much longer until better times return?

We live in a fast-paced environment. The culture we live in believes in quick fixes, but God is never in a hurry. He ordains our days and the circumstances in our lives for our good and His glory. When burdened by a longing for better times, daily sow the seed of God’s Word into your circumstances. When our minds are soaked with His Word, God enlarges our spiritual perception to better discern our circumstances. Hebrews 4:14 says: “Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword…it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” God’s Word is alive. And it has life-changing power. When we tap into His Word, it imparts power to our weary hearts. The Bible also says it is active; it gives us supernatural strength, to expectantly wait for God to work in our circumstances and see His promises fulfilled. “But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, 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 circumstances and usher in better times.

Those taken into captivity in Babylon were carried away in tears, signaling the start of discouraging circumstances that had no relief for seventy years. Their tears of sorrow became the seeds for a future harvest of joy that would be theirs later. Verse 6 says: “May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.” God did the extraordinary and ended their bondage, thereby ushering in a new season of joy.

“Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb” (v. 4). If God can end a season of drought and provide a year of abundant crops on the dry bed of the region known as Negeb, He is fully able to fill our weary spirits with joy by doing something remarkable for us. Your tears, when prayerfully sowed, are the seeds for your future harvest. “Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves” (v). Sheaves are bundles of wheat tied together. Bringing in the sheaves means bringing in the harvest. God still desires to bless His children with events that astonish us. Like the dry beds of the Negeb, previously barren and void of life, He is able to restore our lives and bring joy out of our most difficult seasons. And move you to the other side of James Limburg’s quote to “another time hoped for.”

Have you experienced something so astonishing that it could only have been from God’s hand? If that’s the case, you can now be like the watercourses of Negeb. You can bring refreshment and encouragement to those still waiting for God to move them into better times. However, if you’re still waiting for God to usher in a season of better times, He knows your longing. He hears your prayers for better days ahead. Lean on Him while trusting Him to do a “new thing” (Isaiah 43:19) in your circumstances. The same God who restored the circumstances of the ancient Israelites will restore your circumstances – in His timing and according to His will, which is always in our best interest.

Blessings,

Lisa

You can also find me on Facebook.com/FaithStepsForMilitaryFamilies and on Twitter.com/@lisanixonphillips

 

 

The Anguished Man

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Vietnam3SoldiersHe was sitting there, his face appearing tired and worn; his clothes clean, but torn.

In his hand he held an old faded ball cap, and a small cat lay sleeping peacefully on his lap.

Lots of people were rushing by, but it was me who caught the strange man’s eye.

He smiled, then I smiled, but like all the others, I too quickly passed by.

“Mommy,” my daughter said to me, “What’s wrong with that man? Why does he sit out here all alone? And why does he look so sad?”

“I don’t know,” I guiltily replied. Curious, I stopped and glanced back. His head bent low as his hands were busy fingering shiny letters on his ball cap.

Instinctively I knew. It wasn’t hard to see. He was a  man of sacrifice and pain, now a misfit of society.

Then, carefully and meticulously, he placed his ball cap on his head, and then began to gently stroke the back of his beloved pet.

It was then I read the words of those shiny letters,

“Vietnam Vet.”

-Lisa N. Phillips