Honoring Our Heroes

Tuesday Morning, September 11, 2001 many of us saw the best and worst of humanity play out in real life down the street and on our television screens. America had been attacked! Real fathers, mothers, children, brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, friends, people… real people, ordinary people, were viciously attacked by a radical Islamic terrorists. We didn’t see it coming!

At first we wondered if it was planned? We had a hard time believing that someone would plan such a vicious attack on civilians. We watched the second plane hit, learned about the Pentegon attack, and heard of the other plane that was crashed into a field on American soil. Many of us sat glued to the television praying, not even knowing what to say, because we didn’t know what was happening.

While many stood still in fear, shock, or wonder, there was another group of men and women who quickly mobalized and went running into the fray. They were our first responders. They were just as surprised as the rest of us, but they had a duty that day. Many were off work, but they still geared up and ran into those buildings. Some who were in the building that day been trained as volunteers and instinctively started to lead people to safety. Many entered into the fray never to make it back home.

We gained a new appreciation for our first responders that day. It has become a day to remember and honor our heroes. We had always known that if we were in danger and we called, the fire truck would come, the ambulance would get there, the police would arrive. We always knew that there was a cost, but on that day we saw that cost paid over and over by incredible men and women who went to help.

In the years since, we have had time to reflect and notice that we have alway had heroes in our midst! They enter our lives at our scariest moments (when we face a health crisis, a fire, or are the victim of a crime) and walk us through them. They bring us peace when our world is anything but peaceful.

It always comes with a cost. Sometimes the cost is relatively low and its just an inconvenience. Sometimes the cost is emotional, knowing you did everything right, but still wondering and feeling like you lost or it’s the heart break of the broken situations they enter that seem so broken they will never heal. Sometimes the cost is high, too high, when our friends and heroes don’t come back.

As I was praying for some of our local first responders today and reflecting on 9/11, I came accross this verse:

He who follows righteousness and mercy Finds life, righteousness, and honor. – Proverbs 21:21

I am grateful for our first responders, especially those who I know in our own community. I count it a privildege to be a friend and pray for many by name. I know them to be men and women of character who enter into difficult situations and are genuine peacemakers. I have found them to be men and women of honor.

Typically at this time of year, our church sponsors a breakfast for the first responders in our community! I genuinely enjoy being able to celebrate and honor these men and women. This year, for the first time, we have had to alter our plans (Due to the virus) but I look forward to celebrating our local heroes in the days ahead, because I believe them to be men and women worthy of honor. I am grateful to God for thier service in our community and the thousands upon thousands like them around the nation and globe who step in to help when help is needed most.

Remembering to be Humble on Thanksgiving Day

My parents had a few strange customs around our dinner table growing up.  First, we ate at the table.  It was a discipline because dinner time usually happened around the same time that our favorite TV shows would come on.  Second, My father would read or share a devotional from the Bible or an inspirational book.  Third, we held hands and would all share something that we were thankful for. Nobody ever bothered to tell my parents that this was “Thanksgiving day thing” and not for the other 364 days out fo the year… at 2-3 family meals a day, times 365 days a year times about 18 years at home and you get the idea that we were a thankful bunch.

In those early years I was thankful for sweet and endearing things like my “momma” or my “daddy.” Around the age of middle childhood I was thankful for petty things like, “I’m thankful that I can beat my brother at basketball.” (Since then, he’s beat me a few times).  In to the teen years it became, “I’m thankful for the food, now lets eat!”

Here lately as I try to observe our customs from the outside it dawned on me that sometimes arrogance parades as thankfulness.  I wish I could take all the credit, but the thought really occurred to me when I woke up at 3 AM one morning and heard a few voices clearly speaking in the darkness of my room.  They said…

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus:’God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

God really spoke to me that night, but before you go jumping to conclusions, I went to bed that night with the audio Bible cued up to play while I slept (and allow my subconscious to digest the scriptures).  However, I was waking up from a deep sleep, was disoriented and it took me a few minutes to realize it was just the audio Bible and not a few strange British men who had broken into my house to dramatically read to me from Luke 18.

None-the-less, the seed was planted and I began to consciously think through the implications of how we show our gratitude to God and others.  Real thankfulness doesn’t arise out of a comparison to others, it arrises out of a genuine dependence on God.  The Pharisee wasn’t thankful, he was arrogant.  The things he was “thankful” for were the things that he wasn’t.  He was thankful that he wasn’t like this “sinner” beside him.  The tax-collector was just calling out for mercy. 

There is difference in being thankful that I have a home and being thankful that I am not homeless.  The first way is thankfulness, the second is arrogance.  Its subtle, but it’s there.  One way is gratitude for the blessings of God, the other is to make myself better than others.

This Thanksgiving I’m aiming to be truly thankful to God for all the blessings he’s given me… and to not be arrogant.  Though in a moment of weakness I might say that I’m thankful I’m not an Alabama fan.