Thursday, November 29, 2007

In Honor of Luke Emch...

Some of you may remember my post from Memorial Day, in which I mentioned Luke Emch. Luke was a native of our area, who lost his life in Iraq. My sons and I were privileged to hold a flag in his honor as the funeral procession carried his body to the cemetery.

I was recently contacted by a woman who puts together condolence books for the families of our fallen heroes.

Below is my account of the day we held the flag, as well as the e-mail post from this kind woman--who is also the mom/mother-in-law of military personnel. I have posted this with her permission.

I feel humbled and quite honored!

March 12, 2007

The funeral for Navy Hospitalman Luke Emch, of Tallmadge (Ohio) was held this morning at 10 a.m. He was 21, and was killed in Iraq on March 2nd. The funeral procession was to go past our town, on its way to the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery, though a specific time was not given in the paper.

The boys and I walked to the overpass a little before 1 p.m. We took a couple of flags with us. "Harry" held the smaller one (about 8" X 18"). While we were waiting, we had many, many drivers honk, wave, or both. It was so neat! They saw that flag, and responded. We were just about to give up and walk home, when I could see the flashing lights of the motorcade coming toward us.

"Clyde" and I held up the other, larger flag (3' x 5'). As the procession went under the overpass, the faces of all the drivers and passengers turned upward. Almost every person in that procession waved at us. It was something I will never forget.

I'm so glad we took the time to let that family know that, even though we don't know them personally, we honor their son, and that he gave his life for his country.

I just wanted to share our experience with you.
Hello Joni,
I came across your blog post about Luke Emch this morning.

I too never had the privilege of meeting him. But this afternoon another
military Mom and myself around going to deliver a condolence book
to their family.

I am an Air Force Mom and Air Force Mother in Law. My son Vincent is
23. We live in Twinsburg. He met his 23 year old Air Force wife Dana a few years
back, while stationed at a base in Nebraska. The kids were married in May of 2006.

For several years now I have belong to an online military condolence group.
Folks from all across the country and some even outside the US, send condolence
messages to a person who has agreed to make a condolence book.

The group that made Luke's book are Marine Moms from Texas. The book was
then mailed to me as I volunteered to deliver it since I am quite close by.

I woke up this morning and thought I would do a web search on Luke's name.
Just thinking to read some words of friends who might have known him.
What I came to was your blog journal post from Memorial Day.

I want to let you know that I am printing up the words and including them
in the book to his family. Along with your web site URL. Your words touched me,
and I know they will be even more touching to Luke's family.

From knowing several other military Gold Star Moms, the thing is that their kids
not be forgotten. You have honored Luke and his family with your post.
THANK YOU !!!!!!
Warm Regards,
Deb Estep

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Thankful Heart

This will most likely be my last post before Thanksgiving. Things are a bit hectic around here, as I'm sure they are in your corner of the world. (Except my Canadian friends, who celebrated Thanksgiving last month!)

Things I am thankful for:

--my wonderful husband of 18 years...the man of my dreams...and even more incredible, the man of my real life! I am such a fortunate woman!

--my two growing boys. Yes, there are days of frustration, but there are more times of laughter and joy. They bless me in so many ways.

--our families (parents, siblings, in-laws, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and, of course, our great nephew!) We are surrounded by so much love, even though miles separate us.

--our church home. I am amazed at how at home I feel there after such a short time. I thank God for bringing us there, and the new friendships and relationships we are building.

--my wonderful friends from all over this country, and in other countries. Whether I know them face-to-face, or only through cyberspace, they are each and every one so dear to me.

--Most of all, for all God has done for me...I cannot even begin to list them all. Thank You for never giving up on me. And for the above-mentioned people who show Your love to me in so many ways.

"Give thanks, with a grateful heart
Give thanks, to the Holy One
Give thanks because He's given Jesus Christ, His Son

And now, let the weak say, 'I am strong'
Let the poor say, 'I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us'


Words and music by Henry Smith, copyright 1978 Integrity's Hosanna! Music

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Saint Quote

I thought this really summarized the essence of my previous post. Have a great weekend!

"Beauty when unadorned is adorned the most."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Real Beauty

The following essay was written by my cousin's 14 year old daughter. I am posting this on both my blogs, simply because some of you read one blog; others, the other blog...and this is too good for anyone to miss. (The author's name has been withheld by request.)

* * * * *

Letter About Beauty

I hate it when the girls show off their bodies. They show off all of their legs, as in, if their shorts went any shorter they’d be wearing underwear. I guess they think they’d be accepted if they wear basically nothing. It bothers me that their shirts are like bras; it shows all of their stomach and a lot of their chest. What’s with this? It drives me insane! Why can’t they be modest for once? Why do their parents even let them wear this stuff anyway? Why do they even make those clothes in the first place? Who came up with that? Why does everyone strive to be “beautiful”? Why do we all want to be skinny? Yeah, everyone does think about being beautiful and skinny. Even beautiful, skinny girls think that they’re not skinny or pretty enough. What’s with “Oh I wish I had her clothes”, or “Why can’t I get into a size 0 like she can?” Or even “Oh I love her hair! I wish I had her hair.” Or “She always gets the hottest guys, why doesn’t any good looking guy want to go out with me?”? I hate that! But yet, I do that too, just like you do. So this is why I’m writing this to you. I’m going to try to stand up against those lies. You are beautiful, I’m beautiful, she’s beautiful, we are all beautiful. Even when we grow older and the outside appearance may not be as beautiful as it used to be, lets make sure that we’re always modest, and that our inside is beautiful. There are some girls out there who have the most beautiful outward appearance, but inside is the most hideous person on the face of the earth, just by her attitude and her thoughts. We need to be confidant in ourselves. Girls, we need to remember to not show off our bodies so those guys can see it, just wait for your husband, only he should see that. I love the way Emily Downs puts it in an article in Focus On The Family’s teenage girl’s magazine, Brio, she says that “As females, we need to stop putting so much of our worth in outward appearance. Our Lord created humans in His image, not just the thin, perfect-looking people, but every one of us in all our shapes and sizes. God doesn’t see beauty the way today’s media do. He created tiny girls and curvy girls.” God did create us. He doesn’t make junk. He made you the way you are; he made me the way I am. Even the models are not as thin as the pictures in the magazine. They use computers to fix up their hair, eyes, their size, they get rid of their zits, they make their boobs bigger, or their legs more tan, or they get rid of the spot that they missed when they shaved. No one is perfect.
We don’t need to show off our bodies to be beautiful, in fact that’s just disgusting!
We don’t need to have perfect hair; we don’t need to be a size 0. We just need to be ourselves. Proverbs 31:30 says “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Also Psalms 139:14 says “…I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” The bible says that we are created in God’s image! If you think that you’re ugly, and not good enough, that’s just like insulting God because he made us like this! So think positive, be modest, and most importantly of all, be the girl who God made you to be!

And to this, I loudly reply, "Amen!"

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Continuing the Journey, Part 3

The Bible is clear that there will be a day of judgment. It will be the day when our deeds will come under the microscope, and judged for what they truly are: gold...or straw (see I Corinthians 3:5-17).

"...Each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is." v. 13).

We will be held accountable for our actions. God will "test by fire" how we built our own lives, and how we are helping build others' lives. (See also Romans 2:1-16)

Yet while this is true, I see another aspect of judgment in the Bible. It is an ongoing, daily "judgment". It is what David wrote about in Psalm 139:

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting." (vs. 23-24)

If we are truly continuing on the journey with Christ, we need to have Him examine us each and every day--and often, many times throughout the day. Are my works pleasing in His sight? Am I walking in the way of the Lord? Was this day worthy of a "well done", or was it a "wood, hay and straw" day?

I'm not talking about walking in eternal condemnation. This is actually a life of freedom! Think about it. If we are allowing the Lord to search us, which leads us to repentance, it allows us to draw even nearer to Him--to become more and more like Him each moment of the day. That doesn't sound condemning to me! It sounds like freedom from self and sin!

May we each be able to echo the words of Paul:

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing."
(II Timothy 4:6-8)

Let us run worthy of the One who called us on the journey!

*all Scripture quotations from the NKJV

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Continuing the Journey, Part 2

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."
(I Corinthians 9:24-27)

Recently, there was a big story in the world of track and field. A runner admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. She gave news conferences, and spoke words of remorse amidst shedding of tears. She later returned her Olympic medals. She will forever be seen as the "really good runner who cheated to win". A very sad story, to be sure.

However, in the Christian journey, or "race," if you will, there is no way to win if we "cheat". We must follow the rules set up by the Sponsor of the race. To do any less is to be disqualified.

In the story of Pilgrim's Progress, Christian sees many other travellers who try to make it to the Celestial City their own way. One by one, though, they somehow fall by the wayside. Their way may seem good in their own eyes, but they never make it to the goal. They do not receive the prize.

The joy for those (who continue this Christian journey) is that we have a fan club of sorts. The saints who have gone before are our "great cloud of witnesses," cheering us on as we endeavor to endure and journey on. And the greatest joy of all: at the "finish line" is our Lord.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
(Hebrews 12:1-2)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Continuing the Journey

"Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in Him, 'If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.' "
John 8:31, 32

Yesterday, I saw my husband reading his "Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture" and asked what he was studying. He said this passage was one that had puzzled him for some time. He was wondering what the Early Church writers had to say about it. After I read some of it, I said, "I feel a blog post coming on!" :o) He kindly loaned me his book. And here comes the post!

"Beloved, our condition needs much endurance, and endurance is best produced when doctrines are deeply rooted. For just as there is no wind that is able to tear up an oak tree by its assaults because it sends down its root deep into the earth, so too the soul that is nailed by the fear of God--not just rooted but nailed--will not be able to be overturned...Our Lord wanted to test the faith of those who believed so that it might not be merely superficial, and so he digs deeper into their souls by a more striking word...And so, when he said, "If you continue," he made it clear what was in their hearts. He knew that some believed but would not continue. And he makes them a magnificent promise, that is, that they shall become his disciples indeed. These words are a tacit rebuke to some who had believed and afterwards withdrawn because they could not continue."
~Chrysostom, "Homilies on the Gospel of John"

This passage of Scripture, and the commentary on it from Chrysostom, are quite a challenge to all who would call themselves Christians. It is not enough to believe, or to begin the journey. We must continue on the journey, even when the way seems hard. Even when we don't understand what in the world God is doing in our lives. Even when everyone around us says it's not worth it to keep on. Even when it seems we are walking in darkness and God is nowhere to be found. Even when it would just be easier to go our own way.

There are too many who want to carry the label "Christian" because they think it makes them look good. They want to be grouped with other conservative people who live decent lives. Or they simply want others to think well of them. But is not enough to be baptized. It is not enough to walk to an altar and say a prayer. It is not enough to say we believe. It is not enough to live a "decent" life. It is not enough to be a member of a church. It is not even enough to attend church every week--or more often. We must continue to follow Christ. As Chrysostom noted, we must become deeply rooted, so that we cannot be swayed by the winds of life. Our lives must be "nailed by the fear of God". Anchored so strongly that nothing can move us.

How do we know if we are continuing? It is when our heart continually longs for more of Christ, His ways, and His word. It is when our burning desire is to know that we are drawing ever nearer to Him, and becoming ever more like Him. It is a longing for more of His likeness to be seen in us.

If we say we are going on vacation to, say, is not enough to buy the maps, fill the car tank, and sit in the car. Even starting the engine and driving down the street is not enough. We have to get onto the freeway, and go. We can't stop part way, and decide we've had enough. We'll never get to Florida that way! Of course, we could come home and tell all our friends how we prepared for the trip. We could tell them how we drove through several states. But we cannot tell them about Florida and that we actually went there, unless we really made the journey.

And so it is with our life in Christ. We cannot simply begin and prepare. We must keep going! The journey will not truly end until He returns or we die. Those are the only legitimate ends to the journey. Anything else is an aborted trip...and we haven't made a complete journey.

"It is a small thing for a disciple to come to him; it is a much greater thing to continue in him. Therefore he does not say if you 'hear' or 'come' or 'praise' my Word. He says, 'If you continue in my Word.' What do you think, brothers? Is continuing in the Lord hard work or not? If it is hard work, look at the reward. If it is not, you receive the reward for nothing. Let us then continue in him who continues in us."

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Happy All Saints' Day!

Christ beside me,

Christ before me,

Christ behind me,

Christ within me,

Christ beneath me,

Christ above me.

~Saint Patrick

More information on All Saints' Day