Women In Combat

In late January of 2013, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced he was lifting the military's ban on women in combat.  Consider just a few of the enormous ramifications of this for our troops:  Personal hygiene and sexuality issues; the overwhelming need for upper body strength against the enemy; unthinkable POW scenarios.  And the overarching fact that this one statement takes a sledgehammer to the very foundation upon which we've attempted to raise our sons, namely:  "Guys, always shield and protect your gal....it's not the other way around."  No, Mr. Secretary, this is far too serious of a social experiment to run at the risk of our nation's security.

Come to think of it, some of the best women in combat I've ever seen are not necessarily doing so in an Afghan desert. No, they're in my school parking lot, at the check-out line of the grocery store, and seated next to me at church. They're soldiers of a different sort, battling it out in the trenches of life.

One wrestles to save a dying relationship with a porn-addicted husband.  Another arrives home every night bloody and bruised from ugly court battles for custody of a young child; Yet another slugs it out in the rehab unit on behalf of a wayward son or daughter.  There are even those in the triage ward right now fighting to hang on to a high-risk pregnancy after multiple miscarriages.  These are true women in combat.  And for you brave warriors, I offer these words today:

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."  (Ephesians 6:10-17)

Now ladies, let's put our camouflage on and get back into the war for our families.  I believe we can win this one.

Bumper Scars

Like thousands of carpooling moms across America, I drive a minivan. She's nothing special; she rolled off the General Motors assembly line well over a decade ago, and is fairly non-descript as minivans go.

And yet I can spot my Crane-mobile well across the Wal-Mart parking lot because of two clear distinctions:  (1)  A gaping 10" hole in the front right corner and, (2) a 4" deep divot in the rear passenger bumper. In general I'm not especially particular about my driving machine, but for some reason I'm self-conscious when it comes to these two blemishes.  Recently I was idling at our school's crosswalk when a youngster whirled around and, aghast, proceeded to point out to the world that my washer fluid reservoir was nakedly visible through the broken fiberglass!  Imagine that:  ridiculed by an 8-yr-old!  As a result, whether I'm driving on the Interstate to school, pulling into our Family Talk parking lot, or exiting my car at church, my mangled vehicle screams, "Watch out!  Stay far, far away....this lady drives like a maniac!"

In defense I want to shout back, "Hey, you don't understand...these are not my scars!  I didn't do this!"  In truth, my car was christened by other members of my family:  two seasoned drivers who just happened to be behind the wheel as it (1) slid through an icy intersection, and (2) backed into a hidden fencepost.  Honest mistakes.  But it's the car I drive.  And because we can always find more urgent needs for our hard-earned money, these dual memories will remain in full view until my husband can find appropriate replacement parts at the local junkyard.

In other words:  I daily bear the scars for another's actions.

When I stop to think about it, I'm ashamed for my selfish attitude.  I'm ashamed that the very people for whom I claim I'd lay down my life, are the very ones I quickly distance myself from the moment they embarrass or inconvenience me.  Even more, I'm convicted of the stark reality that this is merely a glimpse of the grief I caused my Lord when my sins were laid upon His shoulders.  In true agape love, Jesus willingly bore my stains, my bruises, my dents and dings in front of a ridiculing world.  He hung naked on that cross while passersby mocked His defiled image.  All for me.  I'm the one who callously slid through that icy intersection of life...not Him.  I'm the one who brazenly backed into that dark corner of disgusting behavior...not Him.  Yet He bore the shame.  And He still does today, every time I refuse His direction.

So thank you, Lord, for my minivan bumper scars.  They are a daily reminder of Your never-ending love and sacrifice for me.

There Goes the Neighborhood!

"Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth."  --  Ecclesiastes 11:9
A few years ago on a glorious Saturday I was in the front yard weeding when a raucous commotion up the street caused me to look up from my dandelions. Four or five houses away, two teenage boys were roaring with laughter as they pushed one another on a four-wheeled concoction that can only be described as ridiculous: an orange moving truck dolly complete with two bright plastic sleds for the seat, a Spiderman skim board for the back, and a swatch of foam-cushioning to top it all off. Veering near disaster to the lawn on their left, I watched with disbelief, thinking “Kids these days!” When suddenly I realized, uh…you guessed it: they were my sons.

Joy. Unabated & unrestrained. Uninhibited laughter and delight. I had to smile to myself. When did I lose that sense of delight? Why can a 16-year and 13- year old radiate from-the-belly-chortling at life, when we adults only see scrapes, ruined sleds and noise?

I want that abundant joy -- not just an optimistic personality, or a sense that all is well in my world -- no, I want to be like my Ford-engineering sons, discovering wonder and awe at the simplicity of this life designed by a loving Creator.

I imagine that Creator was relishing in HIS creation at that moment as well.

"I Was Wr-wr-wrong"

"I messed up."  "I blew it."  "My bad."  And the ultimate? (gulp) "I was wrong."  Why are these words so hard to say?

I don't know about you, but in the midst of some absolutely wonderful family memories this past holiday season I had plenty of opportunities to use one of these lines.  Take your pick.

The day after Christmas, I developed an excruciating headache that forced me to retreat to a dimly lit room with minimal stiumuli.  I longed to be with my family (especially my college sons who were only here for a limited number of days), but I simply coudn't tolerate the noise.  So they each graciously obliged and left me alone.  Yet, as soon as they did, you guessed it:  I felt neglected and abandoned!  Within minutes I unfairly snapped at Steve, accusing him of deserting me in my hour of need.  (I know...go figure.)  With the light of a new day, it was abundantly clear to me that I had been wrong and proceeded to make things right.

My arrogance pops up in silly things as well:  I'll  steadfastly argue that the coffee shop is on the right side of the street only to discover it's on the left, so I defensively retort, "Well, I was coming from the other direction last time!"  Or I earnestly deny that I misplaced the checkbook, only to discover it in my purse later that evening.  Time to add a few more responses to my growing repertoire:  "I'm sorry.  You were right.  I goofed."

My heartfelt prayer for 2013 is that I'll be teachable in this area.  Reading through Scripture again today illuminates both the warning and the blessings of this trait:
     "The Lord opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."  I Peter 5:5
     "Rebuke a wise man and he will love you."  Prov. 9:8
     "He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a comand is rewarded."  Prov. 13:13
     "He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.  He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding."  Prov. 15:31-32

A friend of mine recently posted this Biblical truth on her Facebook page and I was instantly convicted of it's reality in my own life:  "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst."  True.  And yet my heart leapt as my eyes fell upon this everlasting truth at the end:  "But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life."  I Timothy 1:15-16

Oh my!  Only a Savior as compassionate as ours would be able to turn the depths of my sin into ultimate redemption for another eternal soul.  Praise be to Him who gives us the victory!

Throughout 2013 let's bask in a new-found understanding of this truth.

2013: Here We Come....Ready or Not

As we flip our calendars over to 2013, the sense of expectation is high.  Graduations, weddings and vacations are eagerly penned in with great anticipation.  Noticeably absent from these pages are the countless disappointments and losses that you and I will undoubtedly face in the next 12 months.

Author and theologian Dr. R. T. Kendall addressed this on a recent Family Talk broadcast, "Totally Forgiving God I-II" discussing an age-old dilemma he calls the "betrayal barrier." He purports that when we are wronged or kicked in the stomach by life's sucker-punches we often hit a wall and have a choice:  defiantly resist, or open our palms upward and surrender to God's omnipotence.

It's a profound concept for me, and one I struggle with partly because I have an overdeveloped sense of justice:  when I'm misquoted or misrepresented, I'm ticked; when a healthy friend is diagnosed with a fatal illness, or a godly woman's husband walks out on her, I stammer for an explanation.

However, I'm learning that my reliance upon God has little to do with fairness or even vengeance.  Instead it has everything to do with the unwavering recognition that I serve a God who sees all and knows all.  Another Family Talk broadcast guest (and cancer fighter) Dr. Ken Hutcherson puts it this way:  Either God is sovereign....or He is not!

Habakkuk 3:17-18 hits me squarely between the eyes in this regard.  After recounting Jehovah's glorious strength and power from years gone by, the prophet concludes thus:

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on  the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Sometimes it helps to adopt a modern-day filter:

Though the economy has faltered and there are no job prospects on the horizon,
though the milk has spoiled and there's no money in the bank to purchase more,
though there is no car in the drive way and no friends around to offer me a ride,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

I'm not suggesting we play a game of denial.  We don't pretend to eat dinner when the plate is empty, or mime driving an imaginary car to a non-existent job.  No.  But based on a constant reminder of God's faithfulness to me in the past, I am compelled to summon every ounce of my will and place my trust in this very same God for the yet-to-be seen year ahead.

For some of us, this question of God's authority in our life will come early in 2013.  We'd be wise to choose our response now.