Tonight, I sit down to write. Most of you who know me well know that I find writing therapeutic. But, I confess that I let the busy days and noisy life keep me from sitting in the quiet to simply…write.
It is the eve of Veteran’s Day – a day to honor all the people who have served in the Armed Forces. I am a sucker for red, white, and blue. I love to look at old glory flying in the wind. I get agitated when rowdy football fans don’t stand still for the National Anthem or the Pledge of Allegiance. My goose bumps even stand at allegiance to a patriotic anthem with the cadence of the fife and drum. Just thinking about the riderless horse with boots facing backwards automatically puts a lump in my throat. When a fighter jet flies over my head through the fluffy clouds…time stops for me. And I will go out of my way to talk to someone in uniform in an airport or restaurant.
They are the stars – the men and women that have sacrificed, fought, and protected since the inception of the Armed Forces. You have heard their stories. The bravery. The courage. The pain. The honor. The legacy.
Today I hung hundreds of red, white, and blue card stock stars on a blank wall. Stars that little hands cut out. Stars that were decorated with glitter, gel pens, and simple pencil etchings. Stars that bear the names of brothers, sisters, Papas, neighbors, uncles, and friends. With every piece of tape that was torn a child would stop and say “Did you see mine?” “That is my Papa’s name!” “I see my aunt’s name. She is in the Marines!” And my personal favorite…”I am going to be a soldier in the Army when I grow up!” I know the story of some of these stars. I know that some of these stars represent men and women who are no longer living. They are missed and admired every day. Not just on Veteran’s Day.
If you looked in the sky tonight you would see stars that are being gazed at by a lonely bride. She is staring at those stars as her husband and father of her children fight and sacrifice for us. That sacrifice is for us to safely lay our heads on our pillows to rest from our “stressful” days. I don’t hear machine gunfire while I sleep. I don’t have soldiers beating down my door. I am protected.
A lonely mother dressed in camouflage stare at those same stars half way across the world tonight. She missed her daughter’s big softball game and tomorrow is her son’s birthday. She will say “Happy Birthday” through modern technology but, will not be able to hug him. She longs for her husband’s embrace and comfort as she rests her head on the barrel of her machine gun. She will keep watch tonight under those same stars.
My Daddy’s uniform had insignia that included stars and stripes. I can still hear the Velcro peel as he would arrange it in perfect fashion on his flight suit. And yes, it did involve a ruler at times. They couldn’t be crooked or in the wrong spot. When he had it in the right spot he would let me help. I would get the medal pin backs to hand him while he held the pin in the perfect place. The star, the stripe, the bar – all representative of military accomplishment, devotion, leadership, determination, and success.
My Daddy’s coffin was draped with stars and stripes. I can recollect how beautiful the stars and the stripes were even as my heart was breaking. All the insignia was in the perfect place – actually put there by his hands prior to his death. And we didn’t even know it. His dress hat was displayed to the left of the coffin. So perfect.
Stars and Stripes….Stars that God has named every single one!
“He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them. Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite” Psalm 147:4-5
He understands all of the “hardness” and “pain” of life. Oh and … the stripes? No one knows stripes like Jesus. Deep, painful, bleeding stripes. Stripes that were caused by evil and hatred. Oh, He knows stripes.
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
Yes, you read that right. The punishment that brought us peace was on Jesus, and by His wounds we are healed.
Every stripe, every drop of blood, every tear of flesh WAS. FOR. YOU.
It was for your peace.
It was for your living.
It was for your protection.
It was for your healing.
Oh how life gets overwhelming! So much change and pain and fear and uncertainty and heaviness. Satan would love nothing more than for us to focus on that and let it overtake our point of view. But, we must fight! We must focus and fight!
“And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.” Ephesians 6:10-18 (The Message)
The war has been won. Cry out to Him wherever you are. He is right there waiting.
Go look at the night sky. See that twinkle? God named that one as well.
So…tomorrow is red, white, and blue day. A day to thank the men and women for things we can’t even comprehend. The day that the masking tape will peel off the walls and cardstock stars will fall to the ground. Kids will color flags and veterans will cry at a wall of stone… a wall full of names. Honorable men and women will face another long day of living with PTSD. Valiant men and women will have hours of physical therapy to learn to walk again, this time with a leg made of plastic. Courageous soldiers will try to find a hot meal at a soup kitchen before they go back to sleep under the overpass on a thin piece of cardboard. Let’s not forget to say “Thank you.”
“God, it is my prayer that you be glorified through every bit of pain and agony. Let’s don’t waste it. All glory and honor to You…the maker of the stars. Amen.”