Three colors.  Thirteen stripes.  Fifty stars.  Though its outward appearance may be a humble collection of cloth stitched together, the American flag is a symbol of life, liberty, and justice for all.  This flag has been waved proudly and it has also been burned with hatred.  Throughout America’s history, this flag has literally made its way to the moon and back.  It has marched down city streets and flies high above our nation’s capital.  On Memorial Day, however, we remember this flag in a different manner.

When folded into a triangle and presented to a mother, father, husband, wife, son, or daughter at a funeral, this flag represents a life lost.  A life lived to the fullest, but cut too short.  Think about it.  There are hundreds of thousands of men and women who served their country and never made it home.  They had hopes and dreams for their future.  Perhaps they wanted to marry their childhood sweetheart, raise a family, or buy a house.  But one decision cost it all.  They decided to put their life on the line to help ensure our safety and freedom in America.  While defending our lives, they lost their own.

This Memorial Day, I encourage you to enjoy the backyard barbeques and much-needed rest and relaxation.  But above all, I urge you to cherish the time you have with your friends and family.  As the family and friends of fallen soldiers will tell you, you never know how much time you’ll have with them.  Be sure to say a prayer for these families, as I am sure today is especially hard for them.  And be sure to pray for the service men and women who are fighting for our freedom even today.  Let’s pray that they come home waving the flag proudly, so we can thank them personally for the priceless gift they are giving to you and me: freedom.

In Christ’s Love,

A couple of weeks ago, I purchased four sympathy cards for four different families who had lost loved ones.  There’s something a little unnerving and very sad about buying four sympathy cards in the same day.  As I stood there reading the verses in the cards, I wondered how those overly repeated words could possibly have any meaning at such a difficult time in these families’ lives.  Still, I hoped the thoughts and prayers being tucked inside the card would bring some form of comfort to their broken hearts.

That same week, we said goodbye to a family friend who was an elder in our church and first and foremost, a dear man of God.  Earlier this spring, I attended the memorial service for a fourteen year old girl.  Several friends have lost parents and other loved ones in recent months, while others are battling cancer and other illnesses.  And one thing I’ve noticed is that age doesn’t make a difference, ethnic background doesn’t play a part, and socioeconomic status is not a variable either.  No one is immune to death any more than they are immune to life.

Ecclesiastes 3:2 (NIV) says, there is “a time to be born and a time to die.”  As Christians, the Bible tells us that we do not have to grieve as those who have no hope (I Thessalonians 4:13 NIV).  Instead, we should rejoice because the end of our life on this earth is the beginning of something far greater.  For if we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, this world is just a waiting room, a temporary resting place, on our journey to our eternal home.  While some people may regard Earth as paradise, others do not find that it fits this description.

My dad often tells a profound story he heard on the radio broadcast of Dr. J. Allen Blair.  A man had lived for the Lord all of his life and was lying upon his death bed.  One of his friends sitting beside him said, “‘Farewell, brother.  I shall never see you again in the land of the living.’”  The dying man said, “‘You will see me again in the land of the living, for I am leaving the land of the dying.’”  You see, this man knew that this world is not a permanent dwelling place.  He knew there was something better waiting on the other side.

In the meantime, we need to enjoy life.  We need to embrace our family more, tell them we love them more, and spend time with them more.  We need to live more fully, laugh more heartily, and love more deeply.  I can tell you from experience, you will never regret an extra kind word spoken.  You will never be able to take too many photographs of someone dear to you.  And you will never feel like you spent too much time with someone you love.  Cherish life and never let a day go by without thanking God for another sunrise, another memory, another breath.

Live life like you are on a trip to somewhere you’ve never been but have always dreamed of going.  Don’t let the trials you face in life steal your joy.  The life we live down here may be full of heartache, sorrow, and despair.  But where we are going is full of jubilation and peace forevermore.  God’s Word tells us that we cannot comprehend what God has in store for us.  It is truly beyond the limits of our imagination.  And one day, when we have fought the good fight and finished our race, we will step through those gates of pearl and enter into the presence of the Lord God Almighty.  This, my friend, is when we will finally realize that we have been living in the land of the dying.  But we’re going to the land with no tears, no pain, and no death.  That’s Heaven.  That’s the Land of the Living.

In Christ’s Love,


Several weeks ago, I was huddled under the awning on our deck in the Great Smoky Mountains.  The rain was falling rapidly from the clouds, the thunder echoed through the mountains, and the lightening flashed brightly in the evening sky.  Directly across from our deck, there is a breathtakingly beautiful mountain stream.  Cascading down into the stream is a gorgeous waterfall.  Even in the midst of a fierce and somewhat frightening mountain thunderstorm, the beauty surrounding the area remains truly indescribable.

In life, there are many types of mountain-sized storms.  There are the physical ones that we can see and hear.  In these storms, we can readily seek shelter from the rain and wind.  Through the wisdom God has imparted to the men and women manning the weather stations, we often receive advance warning that a severe storm is approaching our area, giving us time to adequately prepare, which improves our safety in the midst of the storm.  Other times, we are not so fortunate.  Sometimes, there is not enough warning.

A close family friend once shared her experience as she and her family lived to tell the tale of the nightmarish storm named Hurricane Andrew that swept through Miami, Florida.  She told us how she and her family huddled in the bathtub, praying and hoping they would all survive the howling winds, the torrential rain, and the endless debris.  As their roof and the walls of their home were stripped away from the foundation, they wondered if they would survive.  As the storm moved on, it only left one thing behind: the bathtub.  Though everything they owned was either destroyed or blown away, they were alive.  Their family had been spared.  God had granted them safety in the storm.

Sometimes, even the knowledge that a storm is in the area cannot prepare us for the devastation that lies ahead.  A hurricane can be too fierce, a tornado can come upon us too suddenly, a tsunami can overtake us before we have time to evacuate…  Much like these physical storms, there are also emotional and mental storms that we must endure.  And much like the aforementioned physical storms, there is not always adequate warning with regard to when and where these storms will strike.

At the age of sixteen years old, I went into my closet to change clothes.  My dad and I were preparing to go see my mom who was in the hospital.  I felt a piercing pain in my side.  Within a few short hours, I was lying on an operating table, having been diagnosed with a perforated colon and peritonitis.  If the doctors had not operated immediately and if my parents had not prayed for my healing, I might not have lived through the night.

My parents were very concerned and prayed diligently that the Lord would spare my life.  I remember my words to them as I was about to be rolled into the operating room.  I told them that I loved them and that God would make sure everything was alright.  Even in the midst of this storm, I had assurance that God would make it right.  I knew that His promise in Romans 8:28 was true.

All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

As I sit here today, fourteen years later, I can still tell you with calm assurance that everything will be okay.  Since that time, I have weathered many more storms, some of which have been much more ferocious.  The night my mom had a heart attack was one of the most violent storms I have ever faced.  Each time I walk in our living room in our camper in the mountains, I am reminded of the horrors of that night.  For several years, I have questioned why God would take her at such a young age, and why He would allow it to happen there, at our beautiful place in the mountains.  How could something so tragic occur in such a magnificent and peaceful setting?

While I do not have all of the answers, I have come to realize that these questions are not important.  Instead, I am beginning to realize that instead of avoiding this place I used to love, I need to embrace it.  Rather than dwelling on one single night, I need to focus on the fifteen years that we have spent in the midst of these majestic mountain landscapes.  I need to be grateful for the memories that we have made there and enjoy making new memories each and every day that God allows us to be in the midst of His awe-inspiring Creation.

Why?  Because even through my uncertainty, even through the storm that swept through my life nearly four years ago, and even through my emotional ups and downs relating to this place I find both peaceful and unsettling, God knows me and loves me without fail.  In every moment I feel ill at ease there, He loves me.  In every moment that I question Him, He loves me.  In every moment I just need to feel loved, He loves me.

Friend, I want to encourage you and remind you that God loves you, too, with an absolute love that has no end.  God will take everything that has happened in your life and use it for your good.  You may not understand it yet.  Perhaps you are still spinning around in a tornado of emotions, or maybe you are inundated by a flood of sorrowful tears.  No matter what storm you are facing, God is standing with you.  He will ensure that you make it safely to the sunshine once more, where you will be able to enjoy the beauty surrounding you.  Though the thunder may roll, the lightening may flash, and the rain may fall, God will be your Shelter from the storm.

In Christ's Love,