Six 21’s

The US Army soldiers who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier endure a strict, arduous discipline for that privilege.

Along with various tests, the tomb guards are required to memorize 17 pages of military information, including the location of 300 presidents and leaders who are buried there; and to be reminded of the significance of guarding and defending our leaders and patriots, and all those who sacrificed blood to allow the freedom to never forget those who died. Each guard spends 5 hours preparing his uniform before taking his position, dressing in front of a full length mirror.

The regimented 21 steps was chosen to symbolize the highest military honor bestowed–the 21 gun salute. The routine involves marching 21 steps S, turning to face E for 21 seconds; turning N, changing rifle to outside shoulder, waiting 21 seconds; marching 21 steps down the mat, turning E for 21 seconds; turning S, changing weapon to other shoulder, waiting 21 seconds, and then repeating the routine until being relieved of duty during the changing of the guards. They carry M14 rifles unloaded and cleaned daily, ready at all times. They can lose this privilege for any conduct unbecoming the tomb guard’s standards any time, on or off duty.

As I studied the discipline and the routine of the guards of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I was reminded of the Apostle Paul’s requirements of discipline and commitment to the Christian life. Using the metaphors for the runner, the boxer, and the soldier, Paul describes the rigorous and strenuous commitment to the Lord.

Paul assumes their common knowledge of the foot race in the stadium. Every one of them should run as these runners do, with an all-our effort to get the prize. Paul says of himself that he does not contend like an undisciplined runner or boxer. He states that he aims his blows against his own body. The Christian, confident of God’s sovereign grace, is nevertheless conscious of his battle against sin. “ For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the forces of evil in the heavenly realms” ( Eph 6:12).

Paul continues in Hebrews 12:1: “Let us throw off everything that hinders.” The runners carried nothing with them in the race. Some things that are not wrong in themselves hinder us in giving our best effort. “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 2:3).

Of the 20% of the US Army soldier volunteers accepted for training to be an unknown tomb guard, only a fraction pass. How many of us modern day American Christians who volunteer for Christ’s service would pass?

If we are to be in the fraction who pass, then we must be possessed with Paul’s discipline, “I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the [coveted guard rank] (1 Cor 9: 27).

A Conference to Remember

Last week my wife and I had the privilege of attending the Florida Christian Writers Conference at Lake Yale in central Florida. What an exciting adventure from the moment we registered on Wednesday afternoon and picked up our room key until we left on Sunday afternoon after lunch.

The time was filled with speakers, appointments with publishers and critique personnel, continuing classes and workshops. I learned so much from them as I had opportunities to talk about my writing – haiku, memoir, devotionals, and Bible studies for small groups. Outstanding!

But the most rewarding experience was spending time with Christian people who have the same love for our Lord and want to share it through their love of writing.

Marti Pieper, chaplain for the conference, critiqued my memoir, Naked with Clothes On. Diane Matthews critiqued my devotionals and also taught 3 days of 2-hour classes honing our skills in devotional writing.

More about it next week. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you if you have ever attended a Christian Writers Conference, or any other Christian Conference. It’s a time of getting to know fellow believers who are also on life’s spiritual journey. What a time we are having on this earth, and we only see through a glass darkly until we are eternally with the Lord.

I am asking the Lord to help me improve my writing skills so that they can “Spur one another to love and good works” (Heb 10:24).

NOTE THE NAME CHANGE: The blog name has been changed from Umbilical to Guardedhearts.

God’s Indebtedness

I had never thought of God as being indebted to anyone. Well, recently He changed my mind.

“Kindness to the needy is a loan from God and God pays back those loans in full” Proverb 19:17. and “God will not forget the love you have shown Him as you have helped his people” Hebrews 6:10. God recognizes an obligation on His part to reward his saved ones for their service to him.

What a concept! We lend to the Lord–the wealthiest Banker in the universe, who owns the Angelic Bank of Heaven and we borrow from him periodically. Then exactly how do we lend to the Lord?

In my hometown in Florida, an exciting lender to the Lord is Rock the Silence, a ministry of hope and help in music, interpretive dance, signing, and drama to the hearing challenged. It’s the only religious entertainers our community mall invites back to perform at Christmas. I’ve witnessed their performance. They are collecting massive loans from their Lord.

Another lender is my cousin, a young gifted violinist, who donates her time, playing at assisted living and nursing homes. She said to me, “I can’t wait to play for these dear, often lonely elderly and to see how music brings big smiles.”

An elderly Christian woman ministers to thousands of children yearly through the Agape Puppets. Often in other countries by herself, she packs and unpacks the crates of the puppet items. She also distributes food to hungry orphans. “My desire,” she says, “is to reach as many children as I can in my lifetime for Jesus.” When Linda shows up to receive her payback on her loans, Jesus will probably run out of crowns.

A biblical lender Job, having a heart to help the less fortunate, personifies lending to the Lord when he says ,“If I have not shared bread with the fatherless and warm clothing to the naked, pull my arm out of its socket” 31:17. A hyperbole that drives home the point–Lend to your God!

Have we considered what loans we’ve acquired in our lifetime as we have loaned willingly and generously of our time, abilities, and resources to the homeless, hungry, and abandoned to meet their needs? The irony of all of this is that the “good” we do for others we give out of God’s resources he’s already given us.

If you don’t see yourself as a lender to your generous heavenly Father, then mediate on Proverb 19:17 until you can pray, “Dear Lord, accept my feeble efforts to help others, knowing full well you keep accurate accounts Malachi 3:16, and you can’t wait to pay back your loans to your servants.”

And these loans will all be paid in full at the bema seat of Christ at his return for the church 1 Corinthians 4:5.

What a payday that will be!