Heroes

By: Mark Deisinger

photo-credit-the-us-army-via-visualhunt-cc-by

Photo credit: The US Army via Visualhunt

On Saturday, December 17, Sharon and I headed to Incarnation Lutheran cemetery on County Road J to join the local Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) chapter in a program called Wreaths Across America. The goal of the program, which is nationwide, is to lay wreaths on the graves of as many veterans as possible. Representatives were on hand at our local spot for each of the armed services, and also to represent those who never came home — those who were/are prisoners of war or missing in action and never found. enCompass Church’s very own Caren Nicholson represented the Air Force. The service was moving, with a gun salute, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the singing of the national anthem. The service was also over quickly, as it was a bitterly-cold day. Even so, we felt it was worth it, because these fallen men and women had sacrificed much to serve our country.

After the service, as we trudged through the snow and tried to find the correct spots on which to lay wreaths according to our maps, I wondered about the people we were honoring. Many would call them heroes, and rightly so in many or even most cases. They volunteered or responded when called to duty. They went above and beyond.

But the honest truth is we don’t really know if we should attribute the word hero to these individuals, because we don’t know them. As I was laying a wreath, I wondered about the man buried there. He was married. Was he a good husband? If he had kids, was he a good father? Was he a force for good in the world, generally speaking? Was he even a good officer or enlisted man? Would those that knew him call him a hero?

johnjdeisinger

John Deisinger

 

Maybe he had been every bit the heroic, self-sacrificing, salt-of-the-Earth man. I am proud to say my own father, John, was such a man. He served stateside in World War II in the Army Air Corps, the predecessor to Caren’s Air Force. After the war, he parlayed his experience as a radio technician and the GI bill into a degree in electrical engineering. He married a blind woman in the late 1940s and raised eight children with her. Never once – not once – did I witness even the smallest hint of a dispute between my parents. They modeled a loving and respectful partnership like none I’ve seen since. I didn’t know it growing up, but I couldn’t have asked for better parents. My parents are two of my heroes.

 

But what of the man whose grave I visited? I hate to think so, but he may have been cruel to his family, he may have cheated a business partner, or he may have had even darker secrets. He may not have been a hero at all. Yet there we were, honoring him as a hero because we were painting with a broad brush and honoring all the fallen service people.

I’ve heard it said you should never meet your heroes. We’ve all read stories about encounters with famous individuals where the celebrity turned out to be a condescending jerk to the (probably-now-former) idolizer. It isn’t a universally true story, of course, but the trap we can fall into is setting up people we don’t know as larger than life or beyond reproach. The reality is that they’re just people like us. Their situations and lifestyles might be different, but inside they have the same fears and hopes and dreams, and the same failings and foibles, as us.

There’s one exception, of course. There is a true hero out there. We can all rely on him at every moment. He won’t let us down. He sacrificed himself for me and you. He has no shadows in his past, no skeletons in his closet, and no wounded innocents in his wake.

Paul tells us this in Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV):

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Let’s all resolve to follow and be like this greatest and most consistent of heroes.

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Breathe, Just Breathe

By: Nicole Quast

The other day I was passing by a coworker on the way out of a building and I addressed her by saying “hello.” She then said, “hello, how are you?” Without even thinking I said “Good. Have a great day!” and I continued walking. As I exited the building and began walking to my car I thought to myself I’m not good. I’m exhausted and I’m feeling lots of anxiety about all of the things I need to do. I’m back to work full time, taking a graduate level class (that I waited until the last minute to finish) and there are so many extra things to do because it’s the holiday season! Don’t get me wrong, I love all the hustle and bustle of the holidays. I love all the little events and traditions that go along with it like lights, trees, parades, parties, seeing Santa, and celebrating the birth of Jesus.

photo-credit-steven-leonti-via-visualhunt-cc-byAs I got into my car and started driving to the next place I needed to be, the song “Breathe” by Johnny Diaz came on the radio.  It was as if the song was written for my life at that exact moment! I have been moving so fast and doing too much!  I broke into tears and could truly feel God’s presence and words speaking to my heart.

After the song was over, I started thinking about the interaction I had with my coworker. Why is it our natural response to say we are good? Is it because we don’t want to expose our imperfections to others? Is it because we don’t want to admit to ourselves that we don’t have it all together? Is it because we feel like no one really cares about how we feel? Is it because we are “Minnesota Nice?”  I’m really not sure and I think for each of us it may be for different reasons.

I was reminded by this song that God cares! So I decided I don’t need to say I’m good but I also don’t need to dump my current problems, feelings and issues onto coworkers and friends. Instead, I can breathe and turn to God in prayer and let him know my struggles and insecurities.  I know he already knows them but by giving them up to him in prayer I realized it helps me not only to acknowledge them but also to release them and let them go!

Through all of this Psalm 55:22 kept ringing through my head:

Cast your cares on the Lord
    and he will sustain you;
he will never let
    the righteous be shaken. (NIV)

Such a powerful and important message in my life right now!

So with all the hustle and bustle this time of year, it is my Hope for us all that we can slow down and breathe and  remember the true meaning of Christmas.  God loves us so much that he gave us his only son to die for us. No present under the tree can even come close to that amazing and everlasting gift!

 

Photo credit: Steven Leonti via Visualhunt / CC BY

 

 

Peace on Earth

Editor’s Note: A committed member of enCompass brought forth this heartfelt response to Sunday’s message. We pray it is an encouragement to you to continue to lean in to what God is doing in our current series.

As we enter into this Christmas season, how oh how are we supposed to be filled with hope, wonder & joy when we feel no peace on earth? How do we find that peace for our hearts so we can share that light with all the other hurting hearts?

This Sunday, Pastor Kevin’s sermon on Matthew 5:3-9 spoke volumes to me. My heart is raw from the broken relationships within my extended family, the animosity throughout and after this last election season, and the wars devastating families & nations around the world. I feel angry & hurt. I mourn for those who are persecuted, forgotten, unheard, disenfranchised, hungry & killed. I mourn for the broken relationships in our family. I am angry for those who are being mistreated. I am angry for what I have to tell my kids. My spirit is poor & broken. I am in mourning.

Despite the heavy heart, I have a glimmer of hope & see a little light. In Luke 2:14 the angels sang “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” I cannot bring peace & good will to Syria, my government or my family…but I can ask God to bring it to my heart. I can ask God to help my heart be meek and filled with mercy. I can ask God to continue to help me be a peacemaker one relationship at a time.

I invite you to listen to the sermon (possibly again) online this week and to join me this coming Sunday to hear the next sermon in our teaching series “Peace on Earth: Bringing Calm to a World of Crisis.” It will be encouraging, challenging and well worth your time.