My husband, John, and I have an odd date we love to plan–it’s one of our favorites. We change into our yard-work clothes, old and raggy, load up our beat up 1989 Ford F150 with cuttings, branches, and other green waste, and head to the county dump.
Jackson joins us. What dog would turn down the chance to ride through the dump with the windows open and a multitude of smells rapidly bombarding his hypersensitive nose.
After unloading our truck and sweeping out the back, we travel home, stopping at McDonald’s on the way. John and I split a $1.00 diet coke and a dollar menu chicken biscuit. Jackson gets a plain cheeseburger. He doesn’t like pickles or mustard.
The date is fun, productive, and cheap. Our marriage has lasted 30 years on cheap dates and bonding through yard-work and chores.
Memorial Day weekend in 2009, we stopped at the traffic light by the local Post Office we always passed on the way to the dump. The American flag hung high, gently swayed by the warm breeze.
“John, pull over!” I yelled and gestured, pointing at the parking lot in front of the Post Office. A car had pulled in and its driver’s door was open. Next to the front of it was the dark figure of a body laying face down in the gravel.
We jumped out just as police arrived. A neighbor already called 911. The man, a regular customer at the Post Office and war veteran, had taken his own life, shooting himself in the head. He died instantly. Word was that he had been very depressed and without friends and family for support, decided he couldn’t go on.
I will never forget what I saw that day. His body, clad in worn out jeans and a blue denim shirt, lay below the American flag now at half mast in honor of Americans who lost their life due to war. As if he wanted to say, “Remember me this Memorial Day.”
Remembering Memorial Day has faded into a holiday weekend of partying, summer’s initiation, and massive throngs of people traveling in the name of rest and recreation.
Each year, an average of 500 people will die on Memorial Day Weekend due to traffic accidents. I wonder how many die due to suicides. Memorial Day was meant to remember those lost honorably as they died for our freedom and safety in the United States.
Each Memorial Day, at exactly 3:00 PM local time, a moment of silence is observed throughout the country. This Monday, take the time to do this and close your eyes, remember it’s Memorial Day, pray for those lost and those left behind to suffer, and thank God in heaven we live freely.
For me, Memorial Day will never be the same. The figure lying in the parking lot on the gravel that day remains in my mind as a vivid reminder of the hurt and loss war brings. He was a stranger to me, but an angel to God.
“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Hebrews 13:2-3)
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1 NIV1984)
“Pulling shopping carts from the parking lot is the most boring, low life job I could get. There’s just nothing else to apply for. With school and homework, this is all I have time for. At least I’m outside. Bill’s stuck inside stocking shelves.” Jeff grumbled loudly.
Hey, there’s Bill. “What are you doing out here, man? Did ya get fired!?”
“Don’t be funny, Jeff. Manager sent me out here to help you. They’re all out of carts inside and the after dinner rush is starting.”
“I know. It’s the highlight of the evening. Shop Super Shop & Mart for the big sales.” Jeff walked off.
It’s getting cold. Hey, my jacket’s in the car. Bill won’t miss me for a sec. I’ll get it and come right back. Besides, he’s a moving target with that reflective vest. What a kiss-up he is. I won’t get caught wearing that lame looking orange thing.
“Hey Jeff, where were you? And where’s your safety vest? The way people are driving around here, you’re likely to get run over without it. Besides, it’s policy to wear it after sundown.”
“Oh chill out Bill. I don’t need to glow in the dark and besides that vest won’t fit over my jacket. I’m tired of freezin’ out here. If you keep glowing the way you are these crazy driver’s will think you’re worth seventy points.”
“Seventy points? What’s that mean?”
“You know, like target practice, Bill.”
“Man, this guy is thick. Follows all the rules but doesn’t use his head. Rules are made for breaking. Sometimes you have to take the survival route. I’ve seen people do that with speeding, lying, and cheating on their taxes. It’s just the way of the world.”
“Jeff! Watch it! There’s a car pulling out behind you!” The surreal thud made Bill run to help Jeff.
“Oh man, he hit me, Bill. I think my leg is broke. Call an ambulance.”
“Hang loose, Jeff, I’ll get help.”
Later, in the ER, Jeff apologized to Bill. “You know, Bill, lying here in the emergency room makes me feel pretty stupid. I should have listened to you. All this anti-establishment stuff went out long ago and as a Christian, I should know better. Rules are not there to be challenged and if I had taken this one rule seriously, I could have avoided this.”
“Don’t sweat it Jeff, just wear your reflector next time.”
Bill was too nice. I didn’t think my manager would be. But he gave me an opportunity to keep my job after I healed up as long as I promised to follow the safety rules while in the parking lot. “The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Good thing God doesn’t take any of my advice. He’d be awfully busy looking after fools like me!
Life Application: Do you think the Ten Commandments were given by God to command you? Think again. They are there to protect you. It’s your choice!
“Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my meditation. Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” (Psalm 5:1-3 KJV)
Here I am—grounded again and it’s only the start of day two. Dad’s hidden behind the newspaper with his morning coffee. Mom’s running around the kitchen finishing lunches, flipping pancakes, and reminding us she can’t take us to school if we miss the bus.
My little sister, not yet old enough for kindergarten, has spooned applesauce all over her hair and my younger brother has just informed Mom that it’s his turn to bring the mid-morning snack to class.
I picked at soggy pancakes, thinking of ways to ask Mom and Dad about the dance this Friday night. The dopest guy in the entire school has asked me to go and telling him my parents won’t let me would mean ridicule from all my friends. Just five more days and I won’t be grounded anymore but that’s too late. One whole week of solitary confinement just for lying; it’s not fair. I’ll never get caught lying again!
I hate my life. Mom and Dad are always concerned about money and bills, I always get stuck baby sitting my brother and sister, and we never do anything fun. The only thing we do together as a family is go to church. Why go to church anymore? Why should I read my Bible or pray? Why am I so miserable? If I’m a Christian, then why do I feel like I’m swimming around in a fishbowl with nothing to look forward to?
* * *
Does this reflect the way some of your days start? Do you feel the despair and discouragement this teen feels? Think about how many days you start out with feelings of selfishness and anger, letting emotions rule your behavior and decisions. Were you able to have a quiet time and Bible reading any of those mornings? And if so, was it enough time to really grasp God’s Word and wait for Him to speak to you?
David, the psalmist, knew the secret of a close relationship with the Lord. “In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” (Psalms 5:3 NIV1984)
In the morning our minds are fresh, not yet bogged down by the problems of the day. It’s a good time to communicate with God and “breathe deep the breath of God.” The teen in this story had a gloomy outlook for the day and defeated her trust that God was in control. She had a distorted “fishbowl” view and was feeling injustice at her punishment.
But the crime justified the punishment and by her statement, “I’ll never get caught lying again,” it’s evident that her heart hasn’t changed. Spending time with God and meditating on His Word would have given her understanding about the situation she couldn’t grasp by herself. Daily devotions and quiet time with the Lord can free you from the confines of the world.
Devotionals provide an opportunity to grow and discover new truths. The Lord has a special path for your life. Know your God, He’ll fulfill your vision and free you from the fishbowl!
How’s your day been? Ever feel like going back to bed and starting all over again? Try a devotional for breakfast. You may not need the oats!