Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I have been fortunate to have my life touched by many people. Two couples that stand out in my mind on this Independence Day are Brent and Deanna and Gary and Janet Strader.

These couples actually have a lot of pain in common, both loosing sons in recent years, both experienced the resulting anger, hurt and tears, both finding that through this pain the Lord has launched unexpected ministries that have impacted the lives of untold numbers of people. Through their losses they have seen their faith tested greatly, and strengthened by the fires that tested them.

In the year preceeding BJ's death in the army of the Lord, Gary and Janet's eldest son, Sgt. Morgan Strader, was killed in Fallujah, Iraq. Like many others , Morgan was fighting to win the freedom of the population there and in the long run, make our own lives more secure. Through the nearly unbearable grief that resulted Gary created a beautiful, inspiring and Christ-focused Thanksgiving-themed PowerPoint presentation that has now been viewed by nearly a million people world wide (at least 68 countries).

The Straders have been very instrumental in the Military Support group in our church, leading efforts that have sent thousands of care packages, Christmas cards and presents, Girl Scout Cookies, Bible devotionals and sermon CDs to our soldiers. The Lord has given Gary a voice in the community because he cared enough to make a difference, having now spoken in a number of public venues about our need to not only support these men and women in thought, but to pray for them and to show tangible recognition that they aren't forgotten or taken for granted. All of this is done with an eye on their spiritual health and growth, that they will know that they are fighting for a cause greater than any country or government.

They have moved steadily forward with this mission, footing the bill of much of it themselves, including the minting of beautiful, silver-dollar-sized prayer coins (you can receive info on these by emailing as daily reminders to pray for our service men and women. I can tell you they serve their purpose well -- both the coins and the Straders.

After Morgan was killed, with (I am sure) tremendously torn emotions, the Straders have watched the second of their three boys enlist and graduate from Army Ranger training. He too is now serving his country - serving us - knowing too well the possible cost. Please pray for Chris, for spiritual guidance and for safety in a world that is increasingly hostile to both his faith and his mission.

Pray for the Straders and for families like theirs all around us - like many of you - who have loved ones involved in physical, as well as spiritual wars. At their heart, all wars are the result of a fallen world that has rejected Christ.

As we watch and participate in celebrations with inspiring fireworks and music - remember that for thousand around the world the projectiles and fireworks are real and tragic, accompanied by the thunder of death and misery. "Freedom is never free." Underneath it all, none of our hard-won freedom would be worth even one death if it wasn't for the death of One on a rugged, ugly stick sunk in a hill overlooking the refuse of the city and the people who had rejected Him.

Thank you Gary and Janet, Brent and Deanna, Mom and Dad...and all of the rest of you who have made this Day of Independence a day worth celebrating.

Have a wonderful 4th and remember its cost. Celebrate the lives of those who know/knew the meaning of service and sacrifice.

Bless Him today,



At 11:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My son was in Iraq last year. Thank you for remembering what our service men and women do for our country. God bless.


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