“In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians/5-18.International Standard Version (©2008)
When I was a young minister, it was my good fortune to be befriended by a frail, elderly little old lady. She was feisty as a bantam rooster and tougher than a railroad spike. When I first became pastor in her community she quickly let me know something had hurt and angered her and just by default I sort of became a target of her wrath. I hadn’t been there long when she “flogged me.” When I found out what had triggered her defensive rage, we got some guys in the Church and fixed it for her. From that time, until the day she died, she became one of the dearest, most treasured friends and most faithful supporters I ever had. She made a confession of faith in Christ and joined the church I was serving. When her health began failing, and she was quite fragile and in declining health, we visited often. Always, when I was leaving, we’d join hands and I’d pray for her. That continued after I left the Church and until my last visit with her in the hospital. After the “amen,” she always added: “Thanks be to God.”
At the time I was unaware that statement was part of some church liturgy, but it also was an expression of her attitude of gratitude. When she died she’d requested me to deliver the temporary “goodbye” and this was the topic of my address: “Thanks be to God.” For what? For everything. EVERYTHING. “Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father above…” These days I’m thinking about some of the things for which I’m grateful. One of them, for example, is the brave, unselfish men and women who are serving or have served in the defense of America. I thank God for them. . . but I also thank them. Willing to die for us, we owe them our undying gratitude.
With Veteran’s day at hand, I believe it’s appropriate to express thanksgiving and pay tribute to everyone of them, including those who’re serving now. None of us who has not served in such a capacity can understand the great risks and sacrifices endured by those who served (or are serving) and their families. That was brought home to me forcefully again as I just completed a magnificent book, The War to End All Wars. It also came to me as I read a friend’s beautiful tribute to her brother, killed years ago in Viet Nam. His Name Was Donn is a very worthwhile read. . . But brace yourself. It hurts, and every correspondence I’ve had with Dr. Evelyn Sweet-Hurd (the author) has revealed the lasting pain his loss caused her family. Pray for or veterans and those serving now. Pray also for their loved ones, “they also serve who only stand and wait.”
While I realize this isn’t exactly a “Scripture study,” it does seem to me a privilege and a duty to say this. After I’d posted these comments on my facebook, my son (Paul Timothy who is a vet. And also a very thoughtful, sensitive guy,) commented: “Even some of us who have served cannot understand. I think Veterans’ Day’s proximity to Thanksgiving is appropriate. A song a friend introduced to me a couple of years ago http://www.youtube.com/wat\ch?v=Pf29IIQuqYk”
Wouldn’t this be a good time for you show your gratitude and thank someone in the military for your freedom. If you don’t know anyone, this would be a good time for you to enlarge the circle of your friends and lengthen your prayer list. Still I’m thinking about the Incarnation of Christ and will probably dwell on that for the next few posts. Bless all you veterans and those with whom and for whom you serve!