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“Now remain in my love…

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

Greater love has no one than this:

to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”

(John 15:9-13).

He grinds his jaw as his blistered soles pound the trail. His gear weighs as much as a man’s corpse, and the load drives an ache through his spine and knees. Perspiration stings his eyes. His lungs heave in a steamy breath. Five more miles before the downhill slope. Must. Press. On.

“Let’s go, soldier!”

Ears clogged, he can’t tell if the raspy command comes from behind or ahead of him. But he knows that voice.

The crack of gunfire shatters the air. An explosion rattles through the earth into his weary bones. He stumbles in the plume of smoke, but does not fall. Adrenaline pulses to steady his gait. Chaos dulls his pain and drowns the officer’s words. But he knows his mission. Heart bearing the worth of his people, the soldier plunges headlong into the deadly fray.

Soldiers. Willing to lay down their lives for our people, they represent the utmost fulfillment of Christ’s call to all of us. This Memorial Day, many of us will offer our respect to the soldiers who have offered the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. Active duty service men and women also deserve our thanks, for they lay aside peace and comfort most of us take for granted. Many in our military face unimaginable horrors in battle, continuing years afterward to fight for emotional survival.

We owe them thanks in many ways.. Verbal gratitude, assistance, and favor provide a good start. Tangible appreciation must never be neglected or diminished one iota. There remains an even more significant means of honoring our troops–join them in answering the call.

Christ commissions all of us to lay down our lives in love for one another. If we rise to follow His example, setting aside our comfort to plunge forth in the fight against evil, we adopt the soldier’s mission. Carrying out acts of love despite hardship will honor the soldier, for we rise to a value more worthy of his or her sacrifice. More worthy, though it remains difficult to imagine we’ll deserve what our fallen troops have offered.

We’ll never deserve the sacrifice Jesus offered for us. No manner of thanks, no acts of service can make us worthy. Grace cannot be earned. Yet our grateful hearts prompt us to follow His example and love others. Like these noble soldiers, we, too, can grow selflessly loving hearts. Far away from perfection, long before we reach our destination, God awards us, both spiritual and tactical soldiers, an amazing distinction. He calls us friends.

This Memorial Day, join me in the ongoing practice of thanking God’s friends. And becoming one of them.

Blessings to all who have offered service to our country and our King.

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“Sacrifice thank offerings to God . . . and call on me in the day of trouble;

    I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:14-15).

Heels bouncing. Arms upraised. Palms waving. I did the happy dance today. Full-on, Snoopy-style. A long wait sweetens good news, and I had waited over a year for an acceptance letter. Could’ve sworn I tasted chocolate while reading.

I love champagne truffles as much as any girl, but I’m more thankful for achievements. Success and answered prayers fire up my worship to a near-charismatic levels. Hand-raising tends to linger outside my comfort zone. When gratitude for provision and healing bubbles up from my soul like a wellspring, I can hardly help myself.

Christ receives my best praise when things go well. Do I offer the same level of gratitude during tough times? I pour out passionate prayers, declaring the power and perfect nature of God. I cry out, reach out, and plead. But days of trouble don’t bring out my Snoopy-style, charismatic thankful dance.

Eternal, indefatigable blessings remain with me at all times, bright or dark. The Holy Spirit promises never to leave me. Christ redeemed my soul and declares me an heir to heaven. The All-Powerful Creator adores me as a Father. Whether I see circumstances working out in my current moment or not, the Lord assures me of His presence. God promises to work out the big picture for my good, and I can trust Him with the immediate details. His goodness never fluctuates. Christ’s most significant blessing remains with me always. Jesus deserves my happy dance every day.

In Psalm 50:14-15, the Lord promises two bonuses if we offer thanks when we’re in trouble. He first assures our deliverance, a cherished gift of His grace. A grateful attitude provides additional perks. Praise shifts our mindset toward hope. Faith grows and strengthens. We secure our footing in the awareness of God’s presence. Thankful prayer offerings sustain and support us through trying circumstances. The privilege of new status gleams on our souls like a crown, for He lifts us up as those who honor Him.

I’m a fan of pleasing my Lord, so I set a new prayer objective. Every day, rejections and life-worries notwithstanding, I plan to fire up some thankful Snoopy waving. I’m working on my “Woot!” Will you join me?

“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving: (Psalm 69:30).

A Florida sunset blazes across the horizon–our effortless version of the summer campfire. Temperatures hover near ninety degrees, and customer traffic doubled at the neighborhood pool store. Yesterday’s evening breeze swept away the last remnants of spring. While Midwest residents continue salting icy walkways, we’re dipping our toes into the next season.

Not that there’s any hurry. Life strolls along at a casual pace in the sub-southern peninsula. Flip-flops clap along the sidewalks year-round. On special occasions, ladies switch to heeled sandals. A number of fair-haired drivers refuse to accelerate for the sake of impatient youngsters. Don’t bother honking to rush them. They either can’t hear you or will enjoy the pretense of deafness at your expense.

The tropics harbor unique creatures and comforts. Our kids weather hurricanes instead of snow days and build sand castles instead of Frosty men. Northern children make jewelry from fireflies, but here we have lizards to hang from little earlobes. When asked about sharks and alligators, natives shrug.

“Stay out of their way, and the neighbors won’t bother you.”

Cockroaches pose a more imminent threat. At least the larger predators won’t invade homes. Unless you have a doggie door, of course.

Battling insects and minding the local monsters–small sacrifices to preserve us from scraping, plowing, and arduous winterizing. When the long yard work season tires us, vacation options abound. Dreamy weekends beckon, less than a gas tank’s trip away. From world-class theme parks to sugary beaches, we grin at those who ask why we choose to reside in the lightning capital of the world.

When visitors bemoan rattlesnakes or the free outdoor saunas, it fails to lessen my appreciation for home. I imagine such dubious folks could experience the same epiphany that once struck my parents during an ice storm. Perhaps then they would join the highway’s right-lane caravan. Straining to see over the steering wheel, their questions might change from, “Why would anyone live there?” to “Are we in Florida yet?”

Quality of life hinges on perspective. Each can opt to embrace or despise his circumstances. The key to a satisfying life rests in recognizing and joining God’s magnificent work. The Lord created beauty in nature and within our hearts to be celebrated, participated in, and shared.

There might be some who fail to appreciate the Sunshine State. I hope they find beauty and joy in their hometown. As for me, I gotta love Florida.

 

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.” – Deuteronomy 8:10

Rejoice in the Lord always…in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” –Philippians 4:4-8

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” — 2 Peter 1:3-4

 

Rain or Shine.

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