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BETWEEN IRAQ AND A HARD PLACE

Our son-in-law David received word this week that he will be going to Iraq in April. He has been in the Air Force for over fifteen years and is a major – soon to be a lt. colonel when he pins on in a few months. He has never been deployed overseas before. That might seem unusual for a career officer, but considering the field he is in – space and missiles – perhaps it is not so unusual, after all. He is more a “rocket scientist” than a soldier and even now is working in a sort of think tank, doing research.

Julie and David have known all along that when you are in the military, being deployed comes with the territory and that it could actually happen someday. You have to be prepared and willing to go wherever they want to send you. After all these years, though, and doing the kind of work he does, it seemed unlikely, perhaps, that it ever would happen. It came as a shock when out of the blue the other day he got his orders.

Their initial reaction was just that – shock. Julie cried. David was dismayed. He was about to start colonel school. And the worst was that they are so close as a couple, and their family is so very close as well, that the thought of being separated was awful. When Julie told the children, they cried and cried and cried. They didn’t know much about Iraq since their parents never have the news on in front of them, but they had heard other people ask for prayer for so-and-so who was going to Iraq, or talk about someone who had been killed in Iraq. Their worst fear was that Daddy might have to go to Iraq, and now it was happening.

Joshua, who is nine, was mad – mad at the military. “Why can’t he just tell them no?” he asked, sobbing.

“He has to go, Joshua,” Julie tried to explain to him. “If he tells them no, they would put him in prison – military prison.”

Joshua continued to cry, but slowly stopped. Julie could see the wheels turning in his head. “How long would he have to stay in prison?” he asked hopefully.

Julie couldn’t help it. She burst out laughing. “Joshua, your daddy is not going to prison! He’s going to go do his duty and we will all get through it just fine!” Joshua had the grace to look a little sheepish, and after that the worst seemed to be over.

They went to meet David for lunch, and when she told him what Joshua had said, he, too, laughed. “Hmm,” he said, “let me see – six months in Iraq – or 50 years of hard time in prison, a dishonorable discharge and losing my retirement? I think I’ll go to Iraq!”

Within a few hours the whole family was doing just fine. They spent time together reading some of the promises of God and praying. They counted their blessings and thanked God for the good they could see in the situation – David would be gone only six months instead of a year; he was going to Iraq instead of Afghanistan; they were settled in their new house and would be fine here at home; maybe the Lord had a special mission for David to accomplish, some life to touch while he was gone. In the meantime, they would simply trust God to take care of them all and bring them back together soon.

There are times when we are between a rock and a hard place and there is absolutely nothing we can do to help ourselves. We feel helpless to control the situation. How we handle those times makes all the difference in the amount of pain or suffering we will experience. If we are bitter or fearful or angry, we make it so much harder for ourselves. There is a lack of trust on our part in believing that God always works in our lives for our best. That lack of trust robs us of the strength, peace and comfort that the Lord is so ready to give us in those troubled times.

An attitude of gratitude, on the other hand, helps us to see the bigger picture as we count the blessings of God in our lives. Taking the focus off the problem and putting it on our Problem-Solver who tells us to cast all our cares upon Him for He cares for us strengthens our faith. (I Peter 5:7) As we remember the great things He has done in the past and thank and praise Him for those things, we can trust that He will uphold, provide and protect in the future, as well. “The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.” (Psalm 126:3)

I know Julie’s family will come through this time of testing just fine. They live by faith, and have taught their children well to do the same. They thank Him in the good times, and they thank Him in the bad times, as well. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (I Thessalonians 5:18)

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WE AIN’T GOT A BARREL OF MONEY

You know how sometimes a song comes into your mind, and you just can’t shake it? That happened to me this week with the strangest song—“We Ain’t Got a Barrel of Money.” Do you remember it? I think it probably came out of the Depression era—and before you say it–no, I’m not that old. That was before my time. I probably first heard this song from my mother when I was a child. Anyway, the words go,

Oh, we ain’t got a barrel of money.
Maybe we’re ragged and funny,
But we’ll travel along, singin’ a song
Side by side.

The words conjure up in my mind the picture of a couple of happy hobos, strolling down a dusty road, sticks slung over their shoulders with bandanas tied to the ends holding all their worldly possessions. They remind me also of a “hobo party” we threw back in the 80’s for a family in our church that was going through a rough patch after the husband lost his job. We all came dressed as hobos, roasted hot dogs on sticks, ate beans out of tin cans, and drank out of mason jars. We also gave them a wonderful food shower. That was the last time I remember singing that song. Why it would suddenly pop into my head this week, I don’t know.

Unless… Could it be that all this unrest in the economy is weighing on my mind? I think we’d all agree, it’s getting scary out there. We all know people who have lost their jobs— maybe our own jobs are in jeopardy. Businesses large and small are folding. The stock market continues to plunge, the housing market is a mess and every time we walk into the grocery store prices are up—again. The economic stimulus, which is supposed to help, is scary in itself. Will it really work? And at what price? What if it’s a huge mistake?

The media is full of stories like “How to Survive the Economic Crisis” and “Catastrophe Looms!” Every day we are told we are sinking into an ever deeper recession. The word Depression hovers over us like a malevolent specter. Will our economy crash altogether and plunge us into another Great Depression? No one seems to know.

Oops! I take that back! There is One who knows, One who holds the whole situation in His hands, One who is in control. Colossians 1:16, 17 tells us, For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. When we think of the Creator, we think of His creation being the heavens and earth, plants, animals, man and so forth. We tend to forget that He is also Creator of governments and rulers for His purposes. By Him all things consist—that is, they are held together by Him. That includes our nation and its economy.

That is not to say that He will not allow our government to fail or our economy to crash. This country was founded on godly principles, yet as we slip away from those principles and the US turns her back on God we cannot expect that He will not send judgment. As Christians, though, we know we can trust Him regardless of His plan for our nation or our own personal lives. “…All things were created by him, and for him…” As Creator He has every right to do as He wills.

As loving Father, though, He has made promises to His children, those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior:

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

I Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

Matthew 6:25-33 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

He loves us and will always care for us. It may not always be in the manner we would choose, but He, in His infinite wisdom, mercy and love, knows what is best for us, and we can rest when we trust in Him.

II Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Philippians 4:6,7 Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

I have to confess, in these uncertain days I am often tempted to worry. I have to constantly battle it. Bob’s job has been in the balance for several months. Twice he’s come home from work and said, “I barely escaped being laid off today. My name was on the list, but my bosses talked them out of it.” Then he says, “I absolutely refuse to worry about it, though! God has always taken care of us and He always will!” He means it, too. Bob does not worry. It’s a little harder for me. I’m the one who writes out the bills and faces the checkout counter at the store. I’m the one who tries to make our shrinking dollars stretch. I must often remind myself that, though these days may be uncertain, the economy may be uncertain, our lives may be uncertain, we can, in the words of Oswald Chambers, be certain of God!

When we are trusting in God, when we place our burdens in His hands, when we live by faith, we will not have the spirit of fear or worry. Although the economy may be in recession, or even facing a depression, there is no need for us to be depressed! God has promised peace which passes all understanding when we hand it all over to Him! He’s walking side by side with us – even when we’re ragged and funny!