Yesterday I was asked to do a talk at church on Memorial Day. Attaching the speech here. My goal was to make grown men cry – I accomplished that goal. 🙂 When I get the speech on video I will post here as well. Remember – freedom isn’t free.
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Memorial Day obviously means a lot to me. Memorial Day is about those who have given their lives for this country so that we can be free. My husband Doug was one of those people. He was killed in action 8 years ago by an IED in Bagdad. But not only does Memorial Day mean a lot to me, but Memorial Day Weekend also has special significance. Memorial Day Weekend is the weekend two notifying officers knocked on my door to tell me my husband was never coming home. To me Memorial Weekend is not just a weekend to honor the fallen, it is the weekend my husband was killed. The exact date of his death? May 25th. Today is May 25th.
We were stationed in Germany when the news came, so I was told I had to leave fairly quickly. I not only had to leave my house, I had to leave my friends. My belongings were packed up, my memories were in boxes. When I boarded the plane to the states, my life, as I knew it, was no more. After arriving in the states, I didn’t expect anything else to happen. Adjusting to my new life was bad enough. I was in a borrowed home, in a strange city, surrounded by things not my own, driving a car not my own, and living a life I did not want to live. Nothing was recognizable. Not even me. The tears hadn’t ceased. And my dreams were gone. A month after arriving in the states, I got a phone call. “Nic, more of Doug has been identified. More of him is coming in urn number two.”
At this point in time I wasn’t normal by any stretch of the imagination, but that phone call set back to day one. My things still not arrived from Germany. My car was still on a barge across the ocean. My friends were gone. My days were filled with tears . And now I had two urns – and questions. Was his head attached to his body? Were his hands? His feet? What part of Doug was in urn number one? And what was coming in urn number two? Those questions were extremely important to me. My plan at the time was to scatter some of Doug’s ashes on top of a mountain and keep some to be buried with me. If I wanted his feet on the mountain which urn did I scatter? If I wanted his hands with me, which urn did I keep?
Six months after the nightmare began, I received another phone call. “Nic, are you sitting down.” Of course, I instantly knew what they had called to tell me. Urn number three was on its way. With each urn, you relive their death, over and over and over. Doug died three times that year. Each and every year, he dies again, on Memorial Day Weekend.
Why three urns? If found out later the IED that hit Doug was the most powerful explosion his men had ever seen. It went off right beside his door severing him in two. His lower half was in tack as if nothing had happened. His entire upper half was gone. Nothing was whole. Nothing recognizable. They were picking off little bits and pieces of him from the doors, from the streets, and from his men. His head wasn’t there. His arms weren’t there. His chest wasn’t there. Only bits and pieces. My husband was everywhere. 8 years ago today.
That is the cost of freedom. Memorial Day. That is what it is about. Remembering the fallen. Remember the cost. And my story is only one story. I am not special – they are. Because freedom isn’t free.
Jesus knows the cost of freedom. He paid for ours with holes in his hands and feet, thorns in his brow, and spear in his side.
But there is a question isn’t there? If God is good, how can he allow this? Why does he allow IED’s in Bagdad, or babies to die in utero, or parents to die of cancer? How can he look down on our pain and allow it? I’ll tell you the answer, but I have to go back to the beginning.
The night the notifying officers told me my husband was never coming home my friends surrounded me. When they finally left it was about 3 o’clock in the morning. I laid on the couch and broke. The tears would not stop falling, but one thought kept popping into my head. Doug is not dead, because Jesus is not dead. That is the point of the cross.
2 Corinthians 3:17 says this: “Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
When Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” He meant it. He is the life. If you believe in Him, He says not a hair on your head will perish (Luke 21:18). He says, “He who believes in Me will live even if he dies.”
How can God look down on pain? Because He knows the future. Although Doug’s not here. Doug’s not dead. My God has planned a reunion . . . one day there will be the blast of the shofar and the dead in Christ will rise. I have decided to keep all of Doug’s ashes, because I am not going to miss those ashes take to the sky. Can you imagine the day? Can you imagine seeing my joy? How can God allow this? Because He can see the end. I have a plaque sitting by my sink and it says, “God makes happy endings. If it is not happy, then it’s not the end.”
How can God allow you to have a miscarriage? Because He can see the day you are reunited with that child. How can he allow someone to be a paraplegic? Because He can see the day that someone will get up and dance. God is like a Father on Christmas morning, waiting for His children to run into the living room and see the gifts He has for them. “Wait,” God is saying, “it is not the end.”
We get so focused on this grain of sand – on this life – that we fail to remember that God has an ocean awaiting us with unending grains of sand. Just trust me in this grain of sand, He says – no matter what – through IED’s, cancer, and death – because I have the ocean for you. Because He is the life. If you choose Him, you choose life. And when you die, you will live. Heaven is not clouds, harps and haloes. According to Joel 2:3 it is Eden. According to Isaiah 65 we are building houses there. We are planting vineyard. Wolfs will lie down with lambs. Lions will eat straw like the ox. We are living, because He is the life. In the end, we are walking into the beginning. We are walking into freedom.
Because where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Listen to the beginning of 1 Peter 5:10 NCV version. “And after you have suffered for a short time, God, who gives all grace, will make everything right . . .”
I need you to hear me with all that you are and all that you will be – God will make everything right. Because in the end, wrongs will be righted and this grain of sand will be the ocean and the pain we feel now, will be washed away by life – by Him. Because where His spirit is – there is freedom. Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Who is the truth – He is the truth – what is the truth – eternal life. That truth, faithful friends, should set you free. For no matter what – not a hair on your head will perish.
But there was a cost. There was the cross. Freedom isn’t free.
This country is standing because of the cost of freedom. The revolutionary war brought an unknown amount of casualties. World War 2 brought almost 300,000 American dead. There are a 109 faces hanging in the Hall of Heroes on Fort Benning, my husband among them, because eight years ago today his blood was shed for freedom. Freedom isn’t free.
I was driving down Double Churches after Easter and there was a church with an Easter sign out front that wasn’t the normal “Happy Easter” or “He has risen” – It said “He Got Up.”
America has always gotten up because America understands the cost of freedom. Why? Because America was founded on Christian values. The flag waves because of Christian values. Because we know in this country without His Spirit, freedom can’t exist. That is why America is always on the front lines, standing tall against a rising darkness. Those men and women whom we honor today, who gave the ultimate sacrifice, were on those front lines. They stood for the flag, they stood for the constitution, and they stood for freedom.
If anyone should understand the cost of freedom – it is the people who have been given freedom through the cross.
So today, on this Memorial Day, I’m asking you to get up. We need to fight for the memory of the fallen, which means fighting for the freedoms America stands for. It means fighting for the freedom this country was founded on. It means fighting for the Spirit of the Lord to be alive in America.
Our freedoms are being compromised every day. Get up. Our constitution is being criticized every day. Get up. Starting today, you need to get up. Those men and women whom we honor today “got up” so that we could be free. Their blood was spilled; the cost was high. We cannot let that cost be for nothing.
Are you willing to get up? Jesus did. It cost him his life. My husband did. It cost him his life. But freedom is worth fighting for. Because this country is worth fighting for. And my God is worth fighting for.
God makes happy endings. If it is not happy, then it’s not the end. But until the time He makes everything right, we have to get up. Because if we want God’s spirit in America, freedom must remain.
Starting today, Christian soldiers. Get up. Fight for freedom.