Monday, November 12, 2018

Leave a Light On: A Veterans Day Story

At Stafford United Methodist Church yesterday, the bells rang out at 11 AM - the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. One hundred years ago, bells had tolled to signal the end of World War I and the signing of the Armistice between the Allied Forces and Germany.
Photo by Arlene Lickiss
I had goosebump on top of goosebump as veteran Clayton Grimmett carried the flag to the front of the sanctuary and our congregation repeated the Pledge of Allegiance.

The goosebumps didn't quit when Pastor Nathan Gift shared this story during our tribute to veterans:

The sacrifices of our veterans are manifold. They sacrifice when they sign their name, raise their right hand and don their uniform. They sacrifice by the hardships they face from weather, sometimes lack of food and sleep while on duty. They sacrifice through traumatic experiences in battle. They sacrifice when they return home physically, mentally and emotionally. They sacrifice when their friends die in front of their eyes. They sacrifice when they lay their own lives down while fighting foreign and domestic enemies of our nation. Their families sacrifice on as many levels.
         Romans 13:7—Give to everyone what you owe them…if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. 

     John 15:12-13—My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
                Today marks the 100th Anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended WWI. But we remember all our veterans today.
Last night a stranger I’d never met, a veteran, stopped by the parsonage. He just wanted to talk. You know, we have no idea what our veterans go through, how sudden sounds and movements affect them. Their nightmares and mental illness. The pain of loss. And especially how our Vietnam veterans were abused after returning home.
This gentleman who came by last night, told me of one night in the year 2000 when he had intended to take his own life. But looking for some kind of hope, he walked up the steps of our Stafford church. He then rattled the locked doors unsuccessfully and sat down.
In complete despair, he remembered the poem Footprints in the Sand. He recited it as best he remembered. As he finished, the light above him turned on. He couldn’t believe it. He was in awe. But then he felt two arms reach around him and squeeze him in a warm embrace. At that moment he was overcome with tears and an indescribable sense of peace, and his despair faded. He went home and locked his weapon away and never took it out again.
Our world can be ugly, evil and deadly. It doesn’t seem fair, but it is what it is. It’s important to know that no matter how bad the world may seem, if you want hope, God is always there to give it to you. Whenever you see a church with a light on, remember that.

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