Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Sentinels--Guarding the Truth

One of the most awe-inspiring moments of my life was spent standing at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery watching the Changing of the Guard.

Not everyone is qualified to stand guard. These soldiers have to not only meet certain physical standards (they have to between 5'10" and 6'4" with proportionate weight and build), they also have to pass rigorous training before they are allowed "a walk." Over 80% of the soldiers who try out for this duty do not make it.

These men are members of the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the US, serving our country since 1784. This unit is known as "The Old Guard," a nickname given by General Winfield Scott during the victory parade at Mexico city in 1847. These elite men have been guarding the tomb 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, regardless of the weather since April 6, 1948.

The men always follow the same pattern:
*The sentinel marches 21 steps across the black mat, past the final resting places of the Unknown Soldiers of WWI, WWII, Korea, and the crypt of the Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War.
*With a crisp turn, the sentinel turns 90 degrees to face east for 21 seconds.
*The sentinel then turns a sharp 90 degrees again to face north for 21 seconds. A crisp "shoulder-arms" movement places the rifle on the shoulder nearest the visitors to signify that the sentinel stands between the tomb and any threat.
*After a moment, the sentinel paces 21 steps north, turns and repeats the process.

The practiced cadence is timed so that the sentinel paces at a rate of 90 steps each minute.

A uniformed relief commander enters the plaza to announce the changing of the Guard. When the sentinel assigned the next walk leaves the guards' quarters, he unlocks the bolt of his M-14 rifle to signify that he is ready to begin the ceremony. The relief commander approaches the tomb, slowly salutes, then faces the visitors and requests silence during the ceremony.

As the new sentinel approaches the relief commander, slowly and with great precision, conducts a white-glove inspection of the sentinel's weapon, The two then march to the center of the mat where the duty sentinel stops his walk, and all three men salute the Tomb.

"Pass on your orders." the commander instructs the active sentinel.

"Post and orders, remain as directed." He replies.

"Orders acknowledged." Answers the relieving sentinel, who then steps into position at the center of the black mat. As soon as the relief commander passes, the new sentinel begins his own walk, 21 paces south, turn and pause for 21 seconds, turn and pace 21 steps south, and then repeat the actions without distraction until relieved by the next changing of the Guards. (

These men have not varied in this since the beginning so many years ago.

The Sentinel's Creed

My dedication to this sacred duty
Is total and wholehearted-
In the responsibility bestowed on me
Never will I falter-
And with dignity and perseverance
My standard will remain perfection.
Through the years of diligence and praise
And the discomfort of the elements
I will walk my tour in humble reverence
The best of my ability.
It is he who commands the respect I protect
His bravery that made us so proud.
Surrounded by well meaning crowds by day,
Alone in the thoughtful peace of night,
This soldier in honored Glory rest
Under my eternal vigilance.

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

There are men today who are part of "a walk." This is the same walk that their fathers walked, and they are determined not to falter in their steps. These Sentinels of Truth are following the "old paths," determined to remain the "watchmen" they were appointed to be.

I have seen the ridicule they are now enduring at the hands of men that once walked beside them. And it shames me.

I am thankful that I have a Pastor who sounds the trumpet of warning, a Pastor who does not cower down to the dictates of man, but lives by the Word. I am thankful that he stands before us as a man that is respected for his wisdom and his steadfastness. And he remains on guard to the snares of the world, sounding the alarm with boldness when danger comes that may take us off the path.

I can qualify my concern. Those that I used to fellowship with, that have decided to embrace these new thoughts are virtually unrecognizable to me. Things that I was taught in the beginning of my walk by these same people are of seemingly no significance any longer.

And I think the biggest problem I have with the whole issue is once upon a time these men stood up and gave their word, promising to uphold a certain standard. Until the written *bylaws* were changed, they were still bound to uphold what they promised.

These "watchmen" stood in pulpits, with the souls of their saints riding in the balance of their presentation of the Word, and they were living a lie. And now that there are men who say "Nay Nay, we will not do this," these "watchmen" with one eye closed to their own indiscretions raise the battle cry and begin the rock slinging.

Today, I honor those men who refuse to bow down to the dictates of those that have so blatantly let down the guard. I honor them because I have seen first hand the destructive power of the world. I honor them for continuing to walk the "old paths."

I honor them for being the Sentinels of Truth. Like the Sentinels guarding the Tomb, these men have had to prove themselves. Every step along the "walk" has been measured by the Word. And when the time comes for the "Changing of the Guards" of our faith, they will be met by young men that have been trained in the "old paths," young men that are unafraid to stand.

"Pass on your orders," the young man will say.

"Post and orders, remain as directed by the Word, never to stray from the path," he will reply.

"Orders Acknowledged," the young man of God will say, and he will step into position behind the pulpit and deliver the Truth, guarding it with his very life, dedicated to his own "sacred duty," his standard will be perfection, his call held in "humble reverence."

Walk on, faithful Sentinels, walk on. There is a lost world counting on you.

Monday, January 21, 2008

When They Still Don't Understand

I am a believer in the fact that each of us that serve God do so with a purpose.

I am blessed beyond measure in my walk with Him. I feel like He has given me a measure of "talents" and I want to use them for His glory.

When I use them, it becomes my worship. I leave the outer courts, pass through the inner courts, and am ushered into the Holy of Holies. And it is my responsibility to bring others with me.

This is no light thing for me. I will never discount what it truly is. It is not a pass time or a hobby. It is a ministry. It is my way of opening up my heart and pouring out of myself all the praise that is inside of me.

How do I explain that to someone who has not yielded to God?

There is a chorus we sing that explains my heart.

"I worship You with all of me
My heart, my life
I give You everything
I'll pay the price
Such a small sacrifice
To worship You with all of me.

I give You every part of me
Each song I sing
Each breath I breathe
I give to You my heart and soul
Take my life
Take control"

It is worth it all to me. What am I actually sacrificing? Time, energy? Is that a sacrifice?

The money spent is always honored by God and is apparent in our lives.

But for someone living on the fringes of God's great blessing, someone who is content to listen to a great message as long as they don't feel conviction, someone who comes to church for the entertainment value instead of coming for the value of the message it would be next to impossible to grasp why.

The "why" is simple for me. It is as necessary as each indrawn breath. It is the longing of my soul.

So to all who still don't understand this need inside of me, to all that want to know what it is like when the Lord places a burden in you, when He gives you a calling, no matter how big or small, and it consumes you with the need to fulfill His plans and designs for you, maybe it's time you sought your purpose.

Maybe then your own song will change, too.

But as for me, I'm going to serve Him. I'm going to serve Him.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

When They Don't Understand

In the Book of Acts in the 5th chapter you read an account of Ananias and his wife, Sapphaira. In order to understand the significance of what happened to them, though, it is necessary to back up some.

"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were ALL filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:1-4)

"And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them ALL. Neither was there any among them that lacked..." (Acts 4:33-34)

Oh, what would it have been like to have been in that upper room when the Holy Ghost fell? I can only relate it to my own experience, and knowing how it was for me, to imagine everyone with one mind, in one accord, worshipping, praying, waiting, anticipating the promise, excites my heart.

Ananias and Sapphira sold a possession, and unlike the others who "sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles' feet" (Acts 4:34-35), they kept a part of the price, thinking no one would know.

Peter addressed first Ananias and then Sapphira. "Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God" he spoke to Ananias in chapter 5 verse 4. This transgression cost them their lives.

It is hard for me to understand some things. I have been a partaker of His grace, a recipient of His mercy. I have been in my own upper room, and I lack for nothing.

And there is NOTHING I want to hold back from God.

Did Ananias and Sapphira simply not understand the price of what they had been given? I'm not speaking of the money they received for the land, I am talking about that glorious day when the Holy Ghost moved through that room.

I know people who have received the same as I, the same as those waiting in that room so many years ago. And yet they still hold back, keeping part of themselves from God, they give only a portion to Him, to His work.

To these, it seems, they never have any depth to their walk with God, preferring to stay on the outskirts, afraid they may be found to still have a portion withheld. But what they don't understand is God knows.

I give You my all today. I give You my everything. It is such a small sacrifice for all You have done for me. Search me always, every part of me, and help me to know my failings, help me to see my shortcomings, and let me reach deep down and pour out all that I am to You. For I know the richness of what You have given me. I worship You with ALL of me.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

For One Moment

I go through each day with the same desire.

I want to reach someone.

I want to take this glorious gospel, this precious truth that was imparted to me and give it to someone else.

I once was lost in sin, you see, but Jesus took me in.

And there are others.

Some days I walk in halls of work, or wander through the crowds of fellow shoppers, looking into faces, wondering....

Could she be the one?

Is he the one I am going to reach?

And I feel within myself that I must reach people at times without even realizing that I do. So I try to be cautious of my actions, letting His Spirit that dwells within me speak for me, even when my voice is silent.

But just for an instant last night, just for a moment, I was thrust into the desperateness of another person's deepest despair.

For a purpose I had no idea I was setting out to fulfill I sat face to face with someone lying in the very bottom of every dream they ever had.

And as I looked on their downcast head I knew how she must have looked, pressing and crawling through that crowd, bent on the touch that she was sure would save her.

I looked hopelessness in the face last night. And as my eyes met their eyes, it was as if I could see the vast emptiness inside of them.

This lost soul had come looking for healing. And within the building where we sat was every manner of devise to assist, medications to soothe away symptoms, and bandages to bind wounds.

Looking into those eyes, I knew only One who could help.

And in that one moment I laid aside what is right and proper for a Nurse to do, and I became who I truly am, a child of the King.

Some days, Lord, it seems I wander aimlessly, although my longing is to work. And there are days when I feel like I am of no use to You whatsoever. Then, I look up, and there You are, reminding me that I have much to do, and many to reach. Thank You for the opportunity to minister to a hurt and dying world. Thank You for the message reminding me once again where You brought me from, and giving me a glimpse of how far You are willing to go to reach just one. Let me walk with You Jesus.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

To Be Or Not To Be

It has been an interesting couple of days for me.

I am excited to share with you that I went out to dinner with my parents last night.

You don't know exactly what that means. But I do.

And even more than that, tonight they went out to eat Chinese food. And they went all by themselves.

God is so good! There have been times when I thought my parents would never be able to do something as simple as eating out again. And this has always been one of their pleasures.

We had such a nice time at dinner. The conversation was lively and varied. The food was tasty. The moment was magical. I can't wait for many more.

And to know that they ventured out again tonight, well, that is the icing on the cake!

Dr. Robert Schuller said, "What would you attempt to do if you knew you would not fail?"


I am standing at a crossroad in my own life. Possibility looms on the horizon, but the security of comfort holds me back. I am comfortable where I am, but at the same time, in my comfort, I am losing out. My life is suffering, and I have the chance to make a change that will take me out of my comfort zone and challenge me as I have never been challenged before.

And that question rises in me. Can I do it? Do I dare to take a chance that could take me further than I ever imagined?

It may seem simple and silly to some of you that I am so happy to be able to have a dinner out with my Dad and Mom. It may seem that way because you can never truly understand what we have been through. You have not seen how deep the valley has been, and because of that, you may not appreciate the splendor of the apex of this climb. But I do. Oh, how I do.

And because I have seen first hand and experienced the odds against just this sort of thing ever being part of their lives again, I stand in AWE!

Having said that, it would also be impossible for anyone to know what it has cost me to reach the place I am in now. And as I dream of the peak, I still face the climb. I have climbed enough to know that sometimes you slip, you fall, you hurt, you have to start over.

Now the question is not, can I make the climb, but is the climb for me? Is this my mountain?

That I do not know, yet.

Failure is possible, that is true. But, still I will press on. Because I have placed my confidence in the One who has written my name in the palm of His hand. He knows me, knows what I am capable of. He knows my strengths, my weaknesses, and my desires.

So I will follow Him, listening for His voice.

I am amazed by You. Over and over again, I am amazed. Such a simple thing to some is such a miracle to me. And I thank You today. Thank You for loving my family, for hearing my prayers. And thank You for guiding me, for keeping Your hand on me. How could I live without You? I don't ever want to find out. I give You my heart, my life, knowing that wherever you take me, whatever is meant to be in my life, I'm going to trust You. My faith, my hope, lies in You.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

In Case of Emergency

My mother is one of the sweetest people I have ever been around, BUT she tends to panic a *wee* bit during stressful situations. And for some reason, during these panicked times she calls me when she would probably be better served calling someone who doesn't get panicked themselves by the phone call, like 911. But it never fails.

When we were training for Dad's home dialysis system I had been without much rest. I had asked my daughter to go with me and drive me the hour or so back that day so I could rest before going in to work. On the way out of town we stopped with Shain, who was such a help during all of that time, to us to get some quick lunch.

Denise noticed my Mom had called her phone so I looked at mine and noticed I had a voice mail. They were staying in the area in their motor home for the training. I called and the message I got made my hair stand up. "Sheri!! Oh my God, Sheri! Call me back NOW!!!!"

I immediately ran out the door with Denise on my heals. She had no idea what was wrong, only that I was running. We then began an exodus of running red lights and participating in a hit and run as I frantically searched the roadside for what I was sure was going to be disaster.

I had Denise calling my Mom continually the whole time we raced along while we cried and travailed *Denise especially got busy after the hit and run since it was on her side*

Finally as we were getting off the exit where the motor home was parked my mother answered. "Everything is OK now. He had a bleed out, but we got it stopped."

Denise and I were shaking by this point. And as I pulled in to the campground I looked over at Denise and said, "You realize that your mother is going to jail."

Yea, she cried a lot.

When a deputy pulled in a little later and asked if we had a health crisis and had bled all over the Wendy's parking lot, I told him the situation was in hand, and proceeded to hand myself in.

Recently I got another call from Mama.

I was at church before service. I had just finished praying when something told me to look at my phone in my purse. I did and my Mom was calling. She was more panicked than I had ever heard her, sobbing uncontrollably. "Sheri, it's bad!! I don't know what to do! He's almost gone!!!" Call 911 was my response. I hung up, ran up for prayer, called back and she was even worse. She HAD called 911 and he was barely hanging on. I tore out of town with Ethan this time. I just knew I was going to get back home and find him gone.

I didn't find out till I pulled into town that he had pulled through.

Monday morning I was sick. I was supposed to go to Savannah for an appointment, but I called and cancelled. My Mom called. "Sheri!! I need an ambulance!!!!"

So I threw on whatever and raced over there with my hair flying. He met me at the truck, said he couldn't breath.

Now, I am forever grateful that I am here to help my parents, so no one will misunderstand. I want to be who they call in case of an emergency. BUT I want them to call the ones that will help them the most first.

I want them to call the ones that will race over and perform whatever lifesaving measures that need to be performed. Then when they have done that, by all means, I'm NEXT!!!

I know what she is doing. In her fear she is looking for someone to tell her that she is doing the right thing. So she calls me since my DAD is always saying in the background "I don't need an AMBULANCE!"

For each of these fore mentioned situations there was a measure that could have served as prevention and PREVENTED me from gaining some of these latest additions to my vastly growing gray hair population.

IF he had not put his jacket on when leaving the clinic he would have seen the bleeding before it filled his waterproof sleeve.

IF he had not fallen asleep in the chair with his arm covered up he may have noticed he had pulled the catheter out of his arm before he had filled the chair, wall, floor and my mother with blood and almost bled out and died.

IF he had waited till some of the dampness was gone instead of going to the mail box so early, especially when he was carrying extra fluid around from not having a treatment in 2 days, he might not have become short of breath and panicked.

You know the old saying, *An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure.*

I tend to agree.

I think the same thing can be said for the church.

I was talking to a lady I work with this morning and she said, "Nobody preaches against anything anymore because they are so afraid of offending someone."

I'd rather be offended for a moment than go to hell for eternity.

I told her how blessed my family was to have a Pastor who set boundaries and preached about what was right and what was wrong.

Oh, how we need it more and more. And I told her that I know there are times when I need to be reminded exactly what those boundaries are so I won't be lost.

I love this poem and thought of it this morning as I was thinking of my conversation with her. I hope you enjoy!!

A Fence or An Ambulance

Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant:
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and many a peasant;
So the people said something would have to be done.
But their projects did not at all tally:
Some said, "Put a fence around the edge of the cliff"
Some, "An ambulance down in the valley."

But the cry for the ambulance carried the day.
For it spread to the neighboring city:
A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But each heart became brimful of pity
For those who had slipped o’er that dangerous cliff,
And the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave pounds or gave pence, not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.

"For the cliff is alright if your careful," they said,
"and if folks even slip or are dropping,
it isn't the slipping that hurts them so much
as the shock down below-when they're stopping,"
So day after day when these mishaps occurred,
Quick forth would the rescuers sally
To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff,
With their ambulance down in the valley.

Then an old man remarked, "it's a marvel to me
that people give far more attention
to repairing results than to stopping the cause,
when they'd much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief, cried he.
"Come neighbors and Friends, let us rally :
If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
with the ambulance down in the valley."

"Oh, he's a fanatic." the others rejoined:
"dispense with the ambulance Never!
He'd dispense with all charities, too, if he could:
no, no! We'll support them forever.
Aren't we picking up folks just as fast as they fall?
And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?
Why would people of sense stop to put up a fence?
While their ambulance works in the valley?"

But a sensible few who are practical too,
Will not bear with such nonsense much longer
They believe that prevention is better than cure
And their party will soon be the stronger
Encourage them, then with your purse, voice and pen
And (while other philanthropists dally)
They will scorn all pretense, and put up a stout fence
On the cliff that hangs over the valley.

Isn't it so much better to stop the problem before it happens than to attempt to repair the damage afterwards?

You have no idea, Jesus, how much I need a fence in my life. I need that line drawn in the sand that separates me from the world and it's snares. I need to hear Your Word and Your guidelines for my life. And I need to stay focused on what You set before me. I don't want to lose site of the goal I am trying to reach. I don't want to get so close to the world that I fall into it. Because even if I find my way back, even if I am repaired, sin never leaves one unchanged. The scars of the fall always remain. Be my fence today and always. Thank you for my Pastor, his wife and their ministry. Thank You for having him guard our fences! I need You more than yesterday.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year/New Focus

New Year's of 1991 my father-in-law happened to be with us.

My whole life we had the same meal for New Year's Day:

Pork Chops
Black Eyed Peas
Cabbage (or Collard Greens)
Tomato Gravy
And Corn Bread

Although we have always been told that they had certain meanings (Pork for good luck-Black Eyed Peas for pocket change-Cabbage or Greens for dollars) we just simply enjoyed the meal.

So on that New Year's in 1991 I fixed the meal for my father-in-law. He was amazed, never knowing there was such a tradition. But he liked it none the less.

Every New Year's from then on I would get a call, "Now, what does the cabbage mean?"

And we would go down the list, ending with the tomato gravy. My answer was always "It goes good with pork chops!"

Here we are, another New Year has begun. My Mom cooked today. It doesn't take much imagination to figure out what we had to eat.

But instead of tomato gravy we had fried sweet potatoes. They were delicious, but I felt the lose of my tomato gravy.

I thought of my father-in-law today, as I have on this day every year since he passed away. I thought about how much he would have enjoyed his grandchildren at the ages they are now.

I am glad I could share part of my family traditions with him and that he thought enough of me to adapt the tradition himself.

I am looking forward today to the year that lies ahead. I don't need a pork chop to provide me with good fortune, I know I have been blessed by God's grace and mercy.

I usually don't make resolutions, but I do plan to change some things this year. I want to switch my focus and find more ways to be the person I need to be. I want to gain wisdom and godliness.

I know that eating 5 pork chops, a pot of black eyed peas and a truck load of cabbage will not really make me rich or secure a year filled with happiness.

I also know that if I increase my time in the Word, increase my prayer time, fast more, that I will gain the spiritual strength I need to overcome whatever 2008 has in store for me and mine.

And although I know people who are stagnant in the traditions of old, I am glad that I know those traditions cannot save you. I am thankful that by being able to set aside some traditions I was able to find a more perfect way.

Lord, I want this to be the best year yet for my walk with You. I want to become closer than I ever have before. I want that wisdom that comes only from Your Word. Oh, that I may know You more.