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IN THE CARPENTER’S WORKSHOP: The soldier

Over the centuries, soldiers have changed the world.  Country and state lines have been redrawn.   Individual countries have become part of empires.  People saved from cruel dictators, people enslaved by power hungry leaders, dreams becoming reality and dreams shattered for good or for evil.

There is no denying the fact that soldiers are important to us all.  We live where we live; we are free to write what we write and to worship as we choose because of American soldiers.

Soldiers are taught to be the best they can be from the time they enter the service.  Physical endurance and strength are nurtured and pushed until they are able to do more than they ever thought possible.

As Christians, we are all soldiers of Christ and should aspire to even greater goals than the soldier of the world.  Pablo Picasso spoke of his mother’s hopes for him, “My mother said to me, ‘If you are a soldier, you will become a general.  If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.’  Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso.”

 So let us seek to pray all the time, to work all the time for peace, to be the best possible soldiers of Christ in the army of God.  Never stoop to mediocrity.  Always aspire to excellence.

A soldier’s perspective on peace is very enlightening.  Only they know the cost of peace.  Douglas MacArthur wrote, “The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

 The peace that God in Christ brings, of course, is not the absence of war.  It is a peace that does not depend on worldly actions or conditions.  God’s peace is a gift from heaven, a state of mind and heart which comes from a secure relationship with God in Christ himself.

Not all can shoot the gun, sail the ship or pilot the airplane in the armed forces.  There are many who back up their efforts, who support them with prayers, gifts and medical attention.  Clara Barton, instrumental in medical advances for our military, said, “This conflict is one thing I’ve been waiting for.  I’m well and strong and young - young enough to go to the front.  If I can’t be a soldier, I’ll help soldiers.”

We wait for moments where we can help.  We use the talents God has given us.  We write good things about God; we hammer and build churches and the kingdom of God.  We teach about Moses, creation, Jesus, forgiveness and love.  We pray for the church, for soldiers of this world and the next, and raise our children to serve where needed.

We should give thanks for our older solders, for veterans as well.  Dan Pipinski wrote, “On the battlefield, the military pledges to leave no soldier behind.  As a nation, let it be our pledge that when they return home, we leave no veteran behind.”

Our soldiers give their hearts and lives for their country.  They are forever changed by the forces of combat.  Whether a few years or many years in service, whatever war they fought in or if they served in peacetime, we should thank them and walk together with them to build good things for the future.

Thank and honor our veterans.  Be proud if you served, or serve now and know that you do a great thing for yourself and others.

Finally, use all the means of disposal to let veterans and soldiers, whether in the army of our country or the army of Christ, know how much you care and support them.

Bill Maudlin, like many soldiers, knew about this dynamic.  “A soldier’s life revolves around his mail.  Like many others, I’ve been able to follow my kid’s progress from the day he was born until now he is able to walk and talk a little, and although I have never seen him I know him very well.”  So write a soldier.  

Encourage or honor a veteran.  Use handwritten notes, emails, the U.S. Mail, the military mail service, whatever you can to find a place in the mailbox of a soldier.  Sometimes close at home, sometimes serving far across the world, they need to hear our thanks.

Whether in boot camp as a young man or woman,  in active military service or a veteran who has given decades of service, they all deserve our thanks and congratulations. 

Write or tell your preachers, spiritual mentors, teachers, parents, friends, all of those spiritual soldiers who helped you along the way.  The letters of the Apostle Paul became part of the Bible, the operations manual for all soldiers of Christ.  And many editions of the New Testament, with metal over the cover, have saved lives in battle so those soldiers could come home and raise families, build churches and save souls.  Send them this article if you would like and add your personal note of thanks as well.  It is our duty, our privilege, our honor to do so.