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Welcome to the CMWF Blog! We hope you'll find some encouragement and comfort here through stories of military life and truth from God's Word.


Renewal
Renewal



By Brandis Trionfo



​If I’m being honest I can say, without a doubt, that I’m overwhelmed. I’m in school full-time. I have three precious kiddos that are go, go, GO all the time. I have three dogs, and as most of you deal with the same, a husband who's not around much. It certainly isn’t his fault--he’s off keeping our country free and safe and I’m so very proud of him.  

My house is a shell of what it used to be--cleanliness has taken a backseat. I also am a Navy Reservist, which you’d think only takes two days a month, but it’s much more involved than that. I lead a team at my church, which takes time. If I had an extra few hours in the day, I wouldn’t complain.


So spring is (supposedly) upon us. Spring is considered a time for renewal and a time for new beginnings. At some point, the flowers will start to bloom, the grass will become green again, and we will all be thankful for the sunshine.


I’d be lying if I said I would experience joy then. I’ve spent many years just thinking, “Well, if this happens, I’d be happy. If this changes, I’d be happy.”  It’s a lie that I’ve led myself to believe when rushing from one thing to the next. I’m overwhelmed, friends.


I need to experience renewal in a bad way. Any guesses on where I can find that renewal? Jesus says in Matthew 11:28 (NLT), 

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” 


Can I get an Amen?


Jesus provides us the rest we need. I remember when I had just two babies at home and I was sleep-deprived and I thought I’d never get the rest I needed.  Somewhere I heard someone say that God gives us the rest we need. I took it to heart and have prayed over that thought ever since. If I’m at this point now, then God is guiding me all along. He’s giving me the rest I need and the strength I need to get through it. It may not always feel that way, but He is.


On the days that I wake up early, get into the Word, and prepare myself for what lies ahead, I feel that strength and resolve. On the days I don’t, I’m crabby, frustrated, and easily irritated over the smallest things. 
I’ve found the best way to experience renewal through Christ is to simply read His Word. 


This is just a season that I’m in. In a few years, I’ll be done with school, my kids will be older and therefore better behaved (I can hope), my husband will be retired, and it’ll be another season. Just like the weather changing, we roll with the seasons of life. When we put on the armor of God and go after Him, we can readily accept what comes our way. It’s all a season. Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT) says, 

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.”


God knows what season you’re in. Just like mine, you may be overwhelmed and stressed and just plain tired. You may be in a season of great joy or a season of great pain. But if you follow through with the Word of God, you will see the flowers blooming in due time.


Hopefully the weather will improve, too.


Father, I thank you for your continued guidance. I pray that you’ll see me through the season of life that I’m in and know that you are with me every step, even on days I can’t see you. I pray that you’ll give me strength and renewal for this time and that I’ll come out of it seeing your hand in all I did. I pray in your name, Amen.


Questions for reflection:

What season of life are you in? How can you use that season to give God glory?
Where in your life do you need renewal? Are you digging deep to know Him to get you there?




Brandis is a former Sailor turned Air Force wife, a stay at home mom to 3 kids, and a lover of rustic country decor. She misses the Navy almost daily but is so very thankful for the time she gets with her family, dogs, & friends living near the beach.


Perspective
Perspective
by Molly Huggins

​My husband and I, we are both helicopter pilots. 

I say are, although it’s been five long years since I sat in the driver’s seat of my favorite machine. Are, because the love and longing never quite go away, and I hang onto my husband’s every word as he tells me about his days, his months, his missions for all the time he was away from me. 


(We have a strict “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy when it comes to the danger he faces on deployment. I wait until he comes home and then I binge on the stories. A result of his first deployment where fear was a battle I almost lost.)


And then he tells me about one VERY close call, and my throat closes up a little, and my stomach turns, and I have to stop listening for a little while. Because, sisters of mine, I am momentarily stunned anew by the gifts we’ve been given, smack in the middle of this chaotic Army life. 


I am one stray bullet from being a widow. I am a one dollar test away from a child with special needs, ravaged by the effects of unchecked jaundice. (Go here to read my friend’s story). I'm white in a world where my brothers and sisters of color still routinely suffer violence and oppression. I’m rich by the world’s standards and I have three healthy children that I know can be lost in a moment. 


And the perspective, it sure doesn’t make me hurt less on days that are hard and achy, but it never fails to make me thank Him more, praise Him more. 


Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. ~ James 1:17


We are moving to a new (big) city in three months, and I’ll be a belly-swollen, bone-tired toddler mama desperate for roots and community and weeks away from giving birth. But still, I’ll be on my knees, all gratitude for the gifts, and the steadfastness of a Father who shows no shadow of turning from me. 


Sisters, in seasons of difficulty, how can you be thankful? 





Molly Huggins is an Army bride, one-time helicopter pilot, compulsive writer, friend seeker, and lover of color and all things textile. Her current occupation is ringmaster of the Huggins family circus (party of five). She has a B.A. in English from Covenant College and a passion for meeting other women right in the middle of their own messy stories. Pull up a chair at her virtual beat-up kitchen table, listen to her stories, and maybe even tell her yours.




He Isn't Mine To Give

By Molly Huggins

 


“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 118:1, NKJV).



I hate the word “well.”

As in, (August of 2010), “Well, I might have to go to Pakistan.” He did, two weeks later, while I was pregnant, after we had sold our house in preparation for moving to Germany. But that is another story for another day.

So he came home around the beginning of September (of 2012) and said, in THAT voice, “Well, I got an email today…” I almost threw up in the dishwater.
They needed one man. ONE MAN to go to Afghanistan--in two weeks--and he just might be that man.

I preach and preach about being content with God’s will for our lives. I say that my life means nothing without Christ, that so much of what I value is wheat and chaff, that I surrender my plans, confident in His loving kindness and mercy.
And then He tests me.

Husband came home and said, “Well … “ and I choked down sobs at the prospect of more goodbyes. And more tears pooled on my cheeks because my womb was empty, and now there would be more months of not being pregnant. But, I breathed in slowly and looked hard at my handsome man, and I knew, I know still, that the Master Planner will give us the grace we need in the moment we are desperate for it.

Oddly enough, I wasn’t angry that he had to leave. Debating the politics of the situation in the moment is a luxury we forgo when we choose this life. Logistically, I have leaving down to a science, and we are perpetually prepared. This is his job and he’s willing to do it.

Additionally, there was a not-small part of my heart that was grieving at the thought of another family living out this same abysmal waiting. If we didn’t go, there would be another pregnant “well …” being spilled out in someone’s kitchen. Is that weird? It’s who I am.

I felt completely divorced from the civilian world.

This one is hard to admit. I felt immense guilt over not being angry at the situation, of looking him in the eye and loving him more for the man that he was in that moment, of being proud of the choices he makes. I felt like I should put up a fight, I should rage and scream and cry because he’s leaving us again.

The world tells me that romantic love feels good and I should be happy and how could he do this to us? And I love him fierce and hard and true, and yet this, this did not feel good. Do I not love him enough because I was not mad at him? But oh, I do, I love this man.

Something about this reeked of sanctification.

This one is even harder to admit because in my fear, I lost sight of real, hard, truth.
This would have been deployment number four. And after the first year, I cannot shake the feeling that every time he walks away - after every goodbye - the odds markedly decrease that he returns whole, or at all. I cried hot tears at the thought of losing him. It wasn’t rational, but it was real.

He was never mine to give, but in my fear I clung desperately to the falsehood that he was mine to keep. This is how I felt … but what did I do? What did I do two weeks later when yes was an ugly, heavy word and we planned our goodbyes? {We had a reprieve, he wasn’t supposed to leave until mid-October}. How did I calm the storm, the wind and waves boisterous around my sinking feet?

The circumstances in which they chose my husband aren’t necessary to relate here. Suffice it to say I was proud of this husband of mine. He is an honorable man and I loved him even more, if possible, throughout these events.

So this is what I did. I wiped away the tears. I bought him some new underwear at Wal-Mart. I bought him some fancy headphones to keep the music piping in, the loneliness at bay. We updated the will. I winked at him a little more from across the room and I held his hand a little tighter in church.

And I surrendered him.

But, they fought for our family, his bosses, they fought for us. If he had gone, our home life would have been predominately daddy-free for 21 months … six months deployed, two months of training post-deployment, four months home, and nine more months gone. I am weary just writing it down. It wasn’t terribly unusual for us, these staccato bursts of time … together, apart, together, apart … but it. is. so. hard.

And so, there were more weeks of not knowing, of surrender and fear and worry, of uncertainty. And who could I tell? It’s unfair to get people worked up about maybe, even a maybe of this magnitude. I whispered it in asides to a few dear friends in the beginning. I was more careless as the time dragged on and on, fatigue loosening my tongue. I was consumed by this. I was a reluctant, recalcitrant child of God, shaking my fist at a Heavenly Father who, even still, works His plans for good.

And, well - after all that - he didn’t have to go.

I was eternally grateful for his command team. And for an Architect who designs us to live right where He would have us. Which sometimes is in uncertainty. But right then, was still in Tennessee. Together.

I won’t lie, it was hard to be grateful for this process. And I was weary on the other side, more weary in this Army life than I’ve ever been. Weary of the toll this life takes on our family, on our marriage, and on this husband o’ mine. But God is good and He promises us rest. And so, I kept winking at the husband from across the room and holding his hand a little tighter in church.

He isn’t mine to give … and so, I am grateful for every gift of a moment with this man I love so fierce and hard and true.

And, even in the midst of this exhausting Army life, I am flat on my face, grateful to the Lord for drawing us closer together, for strengthening our marriage in the face of uncertainty. He did the first year, and the third, and the fifth, and September 2012, and even now.
His mercy endures forever.

(And friends? The sad truth is that not every story has a happy ending. Please know that it is by God’s grace that our marriage survives--we are wholly unqualified to make it on our own! If that was not the case for you, it does not mean that His grace and mercy have abandoned you. My heart aches for you and your loved ones, and I pray you will know peace and comfort from our Heavenly Father.)




Molly Huggins (All The Grace Between) is an Army bride, one-time helicopter pilot, compulsive writer, friend seeker, and lover of color and all things textile. Her current occupation is ringmaster of the Huggins family circus (party of five). She has a B.A. in English from Covenant College and a passion for meeting other women right in the middle of their own messy stories. Pull up a chair at her virtual beat-up kitchen table, listen to her stories, and maybe even tell her yours.







When God Goes With You

by Chantal Graupmann

 

Editor's Note: This month we are welcoming two new members to our blogging team here at CMWF.  Today's post is Chantal's first one with us.  Welcome, Chantal! We're so glad to have you sharing your story with us!

 

 

 

As followers of Christ we all have defining moments in our faith where God asks us to follow Him.

 

Choosing to let Him guide our family as we joined the military was one of those moments for me.

 

When my husband and I got married, the military was not a thought in my mind. We planned to stay in our home state of Minnesota, where almost all our family resides, and raise our future children. We never discussed other options. But two years into our marriage the economy took a downhill turn, and what I thought would never affect us, did. My new husband lost his job, and we were faced with the same difficult situation of unemployment that many Americans were facing. Young and newly married, we were completely unprepared for the difficulties that lay ahead.

 

During the following year and a half, finding work was tough. I was earning my Bachelors degree and working part time, while my husband painstakingly searched for suitable work to keep us afloat. With little hope in sight, we turned our ears all the more to Jesus in desperation. Jesus, what do you have in store for us?

 

Never before had we been so open to listening to the Lord.

 

A little whisper spoke to my heart and practically out of nowhere I found myself asking my husband, “Have you ever thought about the military?” I was completely surprised that this was coming from my mouth. As we began a long discussion about joining the military, I feared how this would affect our marriage and our family. I wanted our children to know their family and I certainly did not want to leave the new family I had gained, or be torn from my own.I was fearful of our future and how this would shape our family, but I felt God reminding me of all the time He had spoken in my life. He was encouraging me to move forward through my fear.

 

God began to deal with my lingering fears as my husband left for basic training. He led me to the first chapter in Joshua, specifically verse 9:
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Those words spoke so strongly to my heart during the time my husband was away. They were a source of great comfort. He was encouraging me to trust in His plan like never before and I knew He would form our family into what it should be.

 

A little over three years have passed since I was encouraged with that passage in Joshua. As I look back, I can see how God has used the military to shape our extended and immediate family. He has kept His promises to me, and no matter where we are, He has provided us with support in the form of family and great friends. Our family is stronger and healthier than it was before the military because distance has forced us to communicate better. God has placed others in our lives at each duty station to fill a specific role where family would traditionally serve, which has created lasting friendships.

 

This passage of scripture continues to encourage me on the days I feel like military life is an impossible feat. It reminds me that He has chosen our family for this task, and no matter where the military may take us or how it will separate our family, He will be there to provide for our needs and to strengthen us.




Reflection
What fears are lingering in your heart today?
Where are you struggling to trust in God’s provision?
Who is one person you can come alongside of today to encourage with the message of God’s faithfulness?

Prayer
Lord, thank you for your constant presence in my life. Thank you for your promise to be with me wherever I may go. Your plan for my family is perfect and as you continue to lead me, I hold onto your promises for the difficult and sometimes lonely days that military life holds. I pray that you continue to go with us all our days.

Chantal Graupmann is an Air Force wife and mother to two children. She is striving to serve women in the midst of motherhood and military life, and is passionate about building community. She loves finding time for DIY projects, experimental cooking, and travel.



Freedom to Choose

By Heather Tabers


 


“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19

It is easy to begrudge the hand that life has dealt us.

Often times, our life’s circumstances were thrust upon us and we had little, if any, say in the matter. Our parents. Our physical features. Our talents. Our physical ability. Our socio-economic status. These things often define who we are despite our ability to control them. It seems unfair that we are called to live a life we did not choose to live. We didn’t choose the disability. We didn’t choose the illness. We didn’t choose the abusive mother, the diabetes, the bankruptcy, or the limp. We didn’t choose it.

It is easy to feel trapped by the lack of choices you may have in your life. The enemy wants nothing more than to rob your life of joy and any feelings of hope that you may have.

The problem, for him, is that you DO have a choice. And so do I.

We have the freedom to choose joy in the midst of our less-than-joyful circumstances. When we are hated, we have the freedom to choose love. When we are sick, we have the freedom to choose gratitude for life. When we are slow, we have the freedom to choose to keep going. When we are deprived, we have the freedom to choose to trust God’s provision.

We have the freedom to choose, because our infinite, mighty God holds it all in His hands.


 

Reflection
In what areas of my life am I not choosing joy and gratitude?
Am I taking the time to thank God daily?
How can I trust more deeply in God’s provision for me and my family?

Prayer
Father God, as we look at the circumstances surrounding us, may we choose to never take our eyes off of You. Give us the strength and the courage to choose life in an environment of death. Help us choose to be lights in a dark world. Help us choose to point others to you. Thank You for giving us this freedom to choose that NO ONE can take away. Amen


 

Heather Tabers is the wife of a wounded warrior and the mother of five children. She is also currently a full time student, a specialty cake baker, and a volunteer with the VA Public Relations office. She writes about her life and her faith to encourage other women on her blog, Wives of War.



You Can't Put A Pricetag On Freedom

By Mary Parker

 


My life so far can easily be divided into three distinct phases: A time when it was out of control, a time when I tried to control it, and the current phase, in which I accept that God is fully in control of my life (although I often have to remind myself of it throughout hectic days).

It may seem counter-intuitive, but the more I trust God to be in charge, the more freedom I feel in my everyday life, and in the storms that occasionally arise.
Because we come from different places and diverse backgrounds, I’d like to use an illustration I believe we can all relate to: money. Unfortunately, our husbands don’t get paid a lot to serve our country and it can often be difficult for military wives to access the education or careers necessary to provide a secondary income. Money can be a huge cause of stress on the individual and family unit. At one time or another, we all could use more money.

Before my husband and I were married, my finances were out of control. I had a limited understanding of a balanced budget and I LOVED shopping. I opened several store credit cards with sky-high interest rates and kept rotating balances. Things were not good, but I couldn’t even see it.

Shortly after we married, my husband and I began to struggle financially. The transition in lifestyle from single to married affected our money in ways we had not anticipated, and when I became a full-time graduate student my income essentially went out the window. Times were hard, and we knew it. My struggle to make our life easier often resulted in conflict as I grasped for control over our lives.

After my husband and I invited Jesus into our lives, things began to change. We heard a message about tithing that illustrated why we give financially and how Jesus wants to bless our money. I was amazed to learn that God actually challenges us to follow Him financially:

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be enough room to store it.” (Malachi 3:10)

God promises that when we are obedient to him financially by giving back the first fruits of what He has blessed us with, He will reward us with more than we can count. What an incentive!

We began to pursue Jesus by managing our money responsibly, always putting Him first. Although it wasn’t much to begin with, we gave with faith that those who can be trusted with little can be trusted with much (Luke 16:10). As we became more obedient with our purse strings, our lifestyle shifted a lot. Things that once seemed so important no longer were, and even though we were making less money and giving the first 10% back to God, we had more expendable income.
When my husband entered the Air Force, we applied these financial principles to our lives. We have been able to save, plan vacations, and live well. Recently, I’ve started working full-time, which has definitely helped, too. But, rather than splurging and living above our means, we have learned to first praise God for what He has given us--our jobs and ability to earn--then apply discipline to the rest of our spending so that we strive to please God.

Freedom means different things to different people. Maybe money isn’t a burden God has put on your heart, but I encourage you to trust him with anything you’re currently holding back and trying to handle on your own.
I can honestly tell you I feel free from the burdens of monetary stress and trust God fully with our family’s finances. And you can’t put a price tag on that!

Reflection

Do you have areas in which you struggle to give up control?

How do you think giving that control over to God might bring you freedom?

 

Prayer
Lord, thank You for being in control over all things in my life. Thank You for the freedom You give when I trust You with everything. Help me to let go of the things I am trying to control. Amen.




Mary Parker is an Air Force wife who works as a public relations writer. A South Carolina girl at heart, she and her husband have recently relocated to Fairbanks, Alaska. Mary spends her spare time honing exercise and cooking skills, and is a self-proclaimed DIY addict. You can read about how faith and hope shape military family life, and check out Mary's latest projects at her blog, Mary's Mischief.



Alive With Grace

By Molly Huggins


 


How do I tell you my story and still make it about His Story? How do I give a voice to one snapshot, hoping the echoes will glorify the Master Planner?


I’ve pondered this a lot lately, and I’ve written much of our story on my personal blog, so I wrestle with this on a regular basis. Today, I might just tell you a little about how I came to be in the Story.

For the better part of two years, I hid in the library. For thirty precious minutes in the midst of my day I would tarry there with the piles of books. It was a brief respite from the torture of eighth and ninth grade, the years when I would step off the bus in tears, unable to navigate the halls without torment, to sit through a class without snickers. I hovered there, in that library, peeking into the unchanging lives of beloved characters--virtual friends before there was such a thing, whose existence was wholly unaffected by my scabby knees, tomboy looks and utter social ineptness. I was lonely in the stacks, but I was safe.

But somewhere around my junior year, between Nancy Drew and the impossibly long walk down the main hall-- you know, the one where you have to step over the legs of the popular kids lounging against the wall and you just know they are laughing at you and your second-hand clothes and sad attempts at following a trend, and not even a cool one at that ~ I came alive.

I was at a church camp. Of course, right? Not what you think, though. My youth pastor taught me to love the Word. He was bold, and he loved the Lord fiercely. He challenged us to do the same. And our youth weekends were wild and adventurous, as befitting a former Marine.

So on this wild and adventurous weekend, digging deep for the Truth, I learned to look at myself through the Savior’s lens. I discovered the redemption of the gospel and the freedom of being His creation. I was known, and loved. All those things that seemed SO IMPORTANT-- my scabby knees, second-hand clothes, and sheer awkwardness, and the acceptance I secretly, desperately wanted-- they melted away in the arms of my Savior.

And so I pick up the weave in His story, somewhere around age 16--me, who is known, who is knitted together in my mother’s womb, me, whose name is written in the Book of Life.

It’s a long story; I’m just giving you a peek at the beginning. We have valleys behind us, and more ahead. Of that I have no doubt. But I will fear no evil in the shadows. “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life…”

Me, who is tattooed on the hands of the Maker. Alive with grace.

 


Reflection
Where did your part in His Story begin?
What prompted your search for meaning and significance?
Who could you be sharing your part in His story with today?

Prayer
Jesus, thank You for making me a daughter in Your Kingdom. Thank You for inviting me in, to be a part of the story with you. Help me to live each day worthy of the calling I have received. I trust You with my story, Lord, knowing that it is truly Yours. I trust that You hold all of it in Your capable hands. Amen.



Molly Huggins (All The Grace Between) is an Army bride, one-time helicopter pilot, compulsive writer, friend seeker, and lover of color and all things textile. Her current occupation is ringmaster of the Huggins family circus (party of five). She has a B.A. in English from Covenant College and a passion for meeting other women right in the middle of their own messy stories. Pull up a chair at her virtual beat-up kitchen table, listen to her stories, and maybe even tell her yours.



Philippians 3: Pressing On Toward Christ

By Mary Parker

 

Have you ever been devoted or deeply committed to someone or something? It may be work, school, family or even a hobby or a cause you adamantly support. Being dedicated to your passion is one thing, but being driven by salvation through Jesus alone is a completely different story.

In his letter to the people of Philippi, Paul writes that he once had every reason to have “confidence in the flesh.” He was circumcised according to Jewish law, was a well-known Pharisee and even proclaimed to be a zealot for God, and under the law, “faultless” (Philippians 3:4-6). In short, Paul has more reason than anyone to be committed to his faith through good works and the law.

Faith in himself however, didn’t save him from the temporary blindness he experienced through a personal encounter with Jesus. Because Paul was so dedicated and committed to the law, Jesus had to take extreme measures to meet him and change his life according to the real will of God, not just by abiding the law. Once Paul recognized Jesus’ holiness, he submitted himself and completely turned his life around, literally changing the world for God by taking the gospel across the Roman empire. Pursuing a relationship with Jesus often means changing our commitments, and- more importantly- your direction.

Even though Paul endured great trials of faith for his commitment to Jesus, he lovingly writes that everything he once prized, his good works and commitment to the flesh, seem to be “garbage” compared to a life following Jesus (3:8). I’m not suggesting that your family or hobbies should be discarded, but perhaps we all should take a minute to compare the temporary, worldly possession and pastimes we enjoy to the eternal salvation we have in Jesus. He has rescued us from the murk and mire so that we don’t have to endure suffering forever! That’s something to really prioritize and value.

As Paul experienced a transformation of the heart upon meeting Jesus, he turned his commitment from worldly pursuits to Jesus and “the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:9). Paul works diligently throughout the New Testament to help people, walking firmly in the direction of Jesus. “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (3:12-14).

God used Paul’s gifts, especially his passion and thirst for righteousness, to change the world. But the biggest shift was Paul’s focus from worldly desires to relentlessly and unapologetically pursuing Jesus.




Reflection


How can we follow Paul’s example and use our gifts to reach others for God?

What things in your life overshadow devotion to God? How can we relinquish the hold on us and give in to faith in Jesus alone?



Prayer

Lord, You are so holy and mighty. You are eternally loving, sovereign, and gracious. I am so quick to lose sight of who You are, and how much greater You are than anything else in my life. Help me to set aside all else for the sake of knowing You. Remind me of Your goodness and mercy today. Amen.



Mary Parker is an Air Force wife who works as a public relations writer. A South Carolina girl at heart, she and her husband have recently relocated to Fairbanks, Alaska. Mary spends her spare time honing exercise and cooking skills, and is a self-proclaimed DIY addict. You can read about how faith and hope shape military family life, and check out Mary's latest projects at her blog, Mary's Mischief.


Philippians 2: United in Spirit

By Heather Tabers



When I study instructional passages of Scripture, I love to look at these three concepts: What, Why, and How. Let’s use these concepts to look at Philippians Chapter 2.

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

I love that in the first two verses of this chapter, Paul opens up a sermon on unity with one simple if/then statement. IF there is any encouragement (help, exhortation, counsel) in Christ, IF there is any fellowship (partnership) of the Spirit, IF any affection (the Greek’s strongest word for compassionate love) and compassion, THEN we are to be of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. IF we are blessed with encouragement, help, exhortation, counsel, fellowship, partnership, affection, compassion, and love, THEN we need to be united.


To break it down, IF God is compassionate towards you, THEN you need to share that same compassion with your brothers and sisters.



Paul offers no exception to this rule, only further encouragement to strengthen the bond among Christians. In one sentence, he gives us the What of the passage: Be united. Now, the Why- Why is it so important for Christians to be united? Why is it so important that we be of one mind, one love, one spirit, one purpose?
Because God chose to be united with us.

5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.


God, in all His perfection and righteousness and holiness, came to earth in the form of a lowly man through His Son, Jesus. Despite being sinless, He obeyed the Father and allowed Himself to be crucified horrifically in our place. The most compassionate love ever displayed was bestowed from a perfect Creator to a sinful creation, all for the sake of being united. Sin no longer separates me from God. He bridged that gap on the cross so that I can be His for all of eternity. That’s the Why-because Christ chose to be united with us.


But how we can be of one mind, one love, one spirit, and one purpose with all Christians? We’re so different!


3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.


Putting others before ourselves does not usually come naturally, this is why Paul breaks it down for us. To be united in the body of Christ as one, we need to put away our selfish habits and conceited ways. We need to stop thinking that our needs and wants are more important than someone else’s. We need to look for opportunities to bless others- not just the others we want to bless, but all others. That’s the How in this lesson- choosing to humble ourselves in unity with one another, just as Christ did for us.


Reflection
Who in my life do I lack unity with?
How can I humble myself and seek to put that person’s needs before mine?
What would this world be like if Jesus had put His needs before ours?

Prayer
Lord Jesus, thank You for the humility and sacrifice You demonstrated on the cross. You put Your glory aside and chose to die for me, because of Your deep love for me, even when I was far from You. Thank You, Jesus. In light of Your love and Your sacrifice, I choose to surrender my pride and my wants, my needs. I choose to love others above myself. I know I can’t do it on my own, but only by the power of the Holy Spirit. Open my eyes to the people around me who need to be loved and served today. Amen.


Heather Tabers is the wife of a wounded warrior and the mother of five children. She is also currently a full time student, a specialty cake baker, and a volunteer with the VA Public Relations office. She writes about her life and her faith to encourage other women on her blog, Wives of War.



Redemption

By Molly Huggins




I heard tell of King David’s first wife once: Michal, a woman both unloved and, in the end, unloving. It’s not a pretty story, and the ending leaves something to be desired.

We know she loved David; he may have loved her in the beginning. Somewhere in David’s power struggle with Saul, she- the king’s daughter- became an ugly pawn. Michal stayed when David fled and lied to protect him. David, instead of returning for her, took two other wives and Michal was given by Saul to a man who, by all accounts, truly loved her.

But politics prevailed, and as a condition of further peace with the house of Saul, David demanded his bride back from a man who wept at her departure. Michal had no love left for David and is depicted as scornful of his behavior and subsequently barren for the rest of her days.

And yet--her story is still included in the books of I and II Samuel. In THE Story. That’s the point, isn’t it? Of this season of Lent, of sacrifice, of a good, ugly, dark Friday.

Sometimes redemption tells ugly stories. We have to weep at the foot of a splintered cross to rejoice in a barren tomb.

And we all have them, these ugly stories, whether we are the wounded or the wound-makers.

And redeemed though we are, like Peter we take our eyes off Christ. And oh, the wind and the waves they are boisterous, and we don’t feel redeemed.

But the gospel, it is built on rock, The Rock. And our ugly stories become an exclamation point to The Story, finished in an echoing, empty grave.

We may not know the particulars of Michal’s story. We certainly don’t know the ending of ours. But we know when our sin swirls around us, eddying in the dark places; when the ugly seems the most real, and our wounds are aching- we are the redeemed. The named and chosen ones, tattooed on His palms. We who were once dead are now alive through the alchemy of Christ’s death and resurrection.

We are new creations, washed clean.

It’s spring here now. A perfect complement to this season of Death, slowly turning to Life. A Good, ugly, dark Friday and a Resurrection.


Reflection
What stories are you telling?
How is God using the hard ugly things in your life to show the story of the Gospel?

Prayer
Father, thank You for making all things new. You are always redeeming us, reclaiming us, forgiving us. Help me to see Your light shining in the dark places. Remind me of Your promises and who you are, that I might trust You more deeply. Amen.




Molly Huggins (All The Grace Between) is an Army bride, one-time helicopter pilot, compulsive writer, friend seeker, and lover of color and all things textile. Her current occupation is ringmaster of the Huggins family circus (party of five). She has a B.A. in English from Covenant College and a passion for meeting other women right in the middle of their own messy stories. Pull up a chair at her virtual beat-up kitchen table, listen to her stories, and maybe even tell her yours.