You CAN Find Hope and Comfort in the Midst of a Calamity

My friend, Jason, lives in the Houston area and recently updated his Facebook status to these words: Isaiah 43:2. Why would he choose those words?

I can’t speak for Jason, but knowing what a strong believer he is, I suspect it is because he knows the context of the words. When we know the setting in which Isaiah’s words apply, we can see why someone dealing with the overwhelming aftermath of the flooding produced by Harvey would chose this particular verse on which to ground his response.

Questions Need Responses

If you are struggling with God right now because you look around and see so much destruction, suffering, and pain, I get it. Without the context of God’s character and his love for his rebellious and fallen creation, it would be only natural to have questions.

I saw an example of this very kind of inquiry on Twitter the other day. And the responses I saw to that question reflected a knowledge of context (and a personal knowledge and relationship with God).

Here’s the question tweet and one of the responses from a believer:

Now, I don’t know for certain God’s reasons for doing or not doing specific things. Why does he allow storms like Harvey to cause death and destruction? I don’t know.

But I do know God’s character as revealed in the Bible and in Jesus. And so, like my friend Jason, I can cling to the words of Isaiah and find comfort and hope. Yes, the storm waters seem to have the upper hand. They have claimed lives and destroyed homes.

Yet, I also see God present with those who are suffering and grieving.

I see him giving us perspective on our pettiness and selfishness.

I see him offering us opportunities to express love and self-sacrifice rather than hate and self-centeredness.

What is the context for Isaiah 43:2?

It is never a good idea to pull a verse out of its context. We run a huge risk of twisting the intended meaning and message. So, to understand why there is such hope and comfort in verse 43:2 of this very large and complex book, I want to share this amazing overview from The Bible Project. In around 16 minutes, you’ll understand the context, see the character of God on display, and be equipped to understand how these words are right at home in a seemingly hopeless scenario.

While the two situations (Israelites in exile due to a man-made disaster and Texans suffering from a natural disaster) are very different, the general context is similar: suffering people who are struggling to understand where God is in the midst of their ruin. What hope do they have when everywhere they look they see destruction and suffering?

That is the situation into which Isaiah’s words were initially addressed.

Watch these two 8-minute videos and you’ll see why Jason and other believers find hope for their situation from this ancient prophet. And why you can, too.

Part 1: Isaiah 1–39

Part 2: Isaiah 40–66

God is Here for You and So Am I

If you’re struggling, hurting, or questioning, I would love to come alongside you and offer you some hope and prayer.

If that sounds like something that would be helpful to you, select a time on my online calendar and we’ll have a short visit via phone or video chat. There is no cost for this call. I’m honored to have the opportunity to minister to you.

Don’t want to visit one-on-one but would still like to share and be prayed for? Feel free to leave a comment or reach out to me via email or social media.

Now, if you just want to argue for the sake of arguing, I’d rather spend my time and energy on more productive causes ministering to those hurting or searching for a closer connection with God or more peace and purpose in their life. So, if you sincerely want to dialogue about legitimate questions and struggles, I’m here for you.

And I’m always happy to pray for and with you. Let me know how I can minister to you. 

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

You Can Be There for Those in Need

Want to reflect God’s loving character to those who are hurting? You can join Making It Real Ministries, Main Street Baptist Church and First Baptist Church of Huffman, Texas in providing practical and needed resources and support to those in the Houston area impacted by Harvey. Just click the button or image below to learn more or to make a donation.

Donate at http://www.lauranaiser.com/harvey

LEARN HOW YOU CAN HELP!

Why Doing and Saying Nothing is Not a Biblical Option

And why how we respond matters so much to God.

A tired and ragged man approached my small group sitting in the courtyard of our downtown church discussing our lesson. He asked if we could help him. We all looked at each other and back at him. None of us twenty-somethings knew what to do so, I’m ashamed to say, we awkwardly did nothing meaningful. As the man walked away he was probably wondering what the point of the church was anyway. That happened over twenty years ago and I’m still haunted by it. The Holy Spirit hounded and convicted me in my prayer time in the days following that encounter. I vowed if I God would give me a “do over” I would behave differently.

Do Something

A few months later, my friend and I were loading our car in the deserted church parking lot after class one late afternoon. I looked across the campus and walking toward us was a man who looked eerily familiar. My companion said to hurry up and get in the car, but I told my friend I would be right back. I took off across the lot toward this man as if he was a long-lost friend and I silently thanked God for this second chance.

It was not the same man as before, just another in a similar situation. I smiled and shook the man’s hand. I asked how I could help him. He seemed surprised by my eye contact and friendliness. He only wanted some directions to the nearby assistance center run by the city.

I gave him directions and asked if there was anything else I could do to help. Did he need food? Did he have a place to sleep? He assured me he was fine and just needed directions. He thanked me for helping him, smiled, turned and walked down the street toward the assistance center a few blocks away.

As I returned to the car, my worried friend asked why I had done something so seemingly reckless. I told her I wasn’t about to run away from the second chance for which I had prayed.

The man really didn’t want anything but directions so it wasn’t like I did much. But the attitude of my heart had been so different this time and I was keenly aware of having done something instead of nothing. I treated the man with kindness, dignity, and respect and provided the directions he asked for. Not much in the scheme of things, but it was far more than I had done in the previous instance of need.

I watch for opportunities now in a different way than I did back then.

When we see need, injustice, or oppression God expects us to move toward meeting the need, working for justice, and lifting up the oppressed. And he expects his children to do so in a manner that reflects his character. 

There are many Christians who provide good role models for doing this. We find the accounts of the earliest in the book of Acts. The many letters in the New Testament also record example after example. And in modern times, we have many role models as well.

MLK Wasn’t Just Eloquent, He Walked the Walk

During the 1960s, “while others were advocating for freedom by ‘any means necessary,’ including violence, Martin Luther King, Jr. used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, such as protests, grassroots organizing, and civil disobedience to achieve seemingly-impossible goals.”(1)

We can learn much about living out our faith in Christ by the example set by this courageous preacher and civil rights leader.

I’ve been reading through some of his speeches, sermons, and letters and have compiled a few favorite quotes to share with you. I hope the principles Dr. King voiced and modeled as he worked tirelessly for social justice inspire you to live out your faith and calling with passion and integrity.

MLK Nonviolence

When eight Alabama clergymen directed a statement to Dr. King, he answered their questions and confronted their spiritual hypocrisy from his jail cell in Birmingham.

In this famous letter, Dr. King explains why it would be wrong to ignore the injustices occurring in their city just because he lived elsewhere. If you haven’t ever read the Letter from Birmingham City Jail, I highly recommend you take a few moments today and do so.

MLK Injustice anywhere-rev

While he spoke specifically of racial injustice, the principle applies to all types of injustice. If we ignore when someone else’s dignity and worth are trampled, we will inevitably find ourselves impacted.

Repent of Indifference and Silence

It isn’t just violence we must repent of and guard against. It is also apathy and silence in the face of injustice.

During World War II, Winston Churchill cited a quote from Edmund Burke in order to jolt those in his nation who were complacent when it came to the atrocities committed by the Nazis elsewhere in Europe.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Dr. King articulated that same thought when he addressed the graduating class of 1964 at Oberlin College. This commencement speech, Remaining Awake During the Great Revolution, is also worth reading!

MLK Repent of Indifference 

Truth and Justice Go Hand in Hand

One of the podcasts I listen to regularly is In The Loop with Andy Andrews. One of those episodes introduced me to the joltingly relevant book, How Do You Kill 11 Million People: Why the Truth Matters More Than You Think.

This book examines how the terrible injustice and oppression in Nazi Germany happened at that time in that country. And with chilling and timely insights into how such horrors could unfold again anywhere good people turn a blind eye to evil and deception.

I urge you to read this book. Don’t worry, it’s not a politically slanted tirade. Regardless of whether you are a Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, you’ll be captivated by the careful reflection on why we must demand truth and justice.

Read it to your kids (I did) and discuss with them our responsibility to take action and speak up when we see injustice and to use our votes to support people who tell the truth not just what makes us feel good.

In the book, Andy recounts the eyewitness testimony of a congregation member at a church near the railroad tracks on which the Jewish mothers, fathers, children, and grandparents were packed and transported like cattle to the death camps.

We knew the time the train was coming and when we heard the whistle blow we began singing hymns. By the time the train came past our church, we were singing at the top of our voices. If we heard the screams, we sang more loudly and soon we heard them no more.

This very kind of indifference was addressed by King Solomon in Proverbs. He challenged the people of his day (and through the Scriptures, us) to speak up to rescue people in situations precisely like those on the trains in Nazi Germany, in the firebombed churches of Birmingham during the Civil Rights Movement, and anywhere people trample over the vulnerable.

If you do nothing in a difficult time, your strength is limited. Rescue those being taken off to death, and save those stumbling toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we didn’t know about this,’ won’t He who weights hearts consider it? Won’t He who protects your life know? Won’t He repay a person according to his work?”Proverbs 24:10-12

Let’s open our eyes and ears. Let’s repent of our inaction in the face of injustice. Let’s repent and repudiate violence as a means of protest.

10 “King Rules” That Guided MLK

Alveda King, Dr. King’s niece, shares the principles that guided her uncle and the entire King family in her book, King Rules: Ten Truths for You, Your Family, and Our Nation to Prosper. I found it to be quite compelling and insightful.  She tells the story of seven generations of her family through the lens of ten biblical principles that have guided and directed each generation. It was these ten truths that gave them courage to work for change in an unjust society, strength to overcome immense tragedies, and joy through the good and bad.

It is noted in the book that while the title “King Rules” conveys the fact that the King family was guided by these principles, these are really the rules of the King, Jesus Christ. These values endure and empower because they are eternal.

I’ve made you a cheat sheet of these ten principles. If you’d like a copy, just click the image or button below and I’ll email you a copy right away.

I’d like the FREE Cheat Sheet!

Your turn: What helps or hinders you from taking action or speaking up in the face of need or injustice? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

(1) http://www.thekingcenter.org/about-dr-king

Your Power Is NOT in Yourself But in His Spirit

FREE 4 x 6 Print to Encourage and Remind You

Even when we are excited, energized, and eager to pursue God’s calling on our lives, there are inevitably times when it gets scary. And if you’re not periodically frightened by the challenges you face, may I respectfully suggest you are probably living within your comfort zone rather than truly running hard after God’s purpose for your life. He rarely calls us to the safe and comfy boat and regularly beckons us out on the wild waves. So, for those moments when you feel in over your head, repeat the words of encouragement on the photo below.

Get a FREE Printable

I’ve made you a free 4 x 6 high resolution version of the gorgeous photo by Roberto Nickson shown above. It includes the encouraging words from this post to remind you where your power comes from when you get discouraged! Click the button below and I’ll instantly email you a file that you can upload to your favorite photo printer (Shutterfly, Walgreens, Target, etc. or your home printer) and have prints made that will fit in a standard size frame.

Send me that photo!

The Water May Not Always Be Smooth But Don’t Be Afraid!

One of my favorite passages is found in Matthew 14:22-33. This is the account of Jesus walking on water. Immediately after he miraculously feeds more than 5,000 people with five small loaves and two little fish, Jesus made his disciples get into a boat and head off across the Sea of Galilee. Jesus remains behind to dismiss the crowd and spend some time alone with his Father in prayer. Sometime between 3:00 am and 6:00 am, Jesus walked across the lake to catch up with the guys in the boat. They were battling waves and wind which can be fierce on the Sea of Galilee. Seeing what they thought was a ghost, the men were terrified. But Jesus said to them,

Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

Then Peter does the most astonishing thing—at least I find it extraordinary. He asks Jesus to call him out on the water with Jesus. And Jesus says, “Come.” Then Peter climbed out of the boat and walked on water toward Jesus! 

It was only when he became distracted by the wind that he faltered in fear and began to sink. He cried out to Jesus who immediately reached out and caught him. Jesus chided Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt.” And when they both boarded the boat, the wind and waves calmed and those with Jesus declared,

Truly you are the Son of God.”

It is easy to head out on your mission when the lake is smooth as glass. It is much harder when the winds whip the surface into threatening waves. Yet, either way, getting out of the boat would not be my first inclination. So, I’m impressed with Peter’s faith and “out-of-the-boat/box” thinking. He has the right idea. He wants to be doing what Jesus is doing and be where Jesus is. I want that too.

May God give me and you the courage and faith to follow Jesus onto the crashing waves.

Take Courage2

 

Praying Scripture for You

The same strength that raised Christ from the dead is the the power God places in us by his Spirit to empower us to do what he calls us to do. Like Peter, we may slip and fall sometimes, we may let the doubt and distractions creep in and crowd out our concentration on Jesus, but when we cry out for help, he will be there.

I couldn’t remember exactly where in the Scriptures I had read that the power we have access to is the same power that raised Christ. So I looked it up (It is found within Ephesians 1:15-23, by the way). Paul mentions it in a section of his letter where he conveys what he is praying on the recipients’ behalf. It was so beautiful, I want to pray those same sentiments over you now.

Glorious Father God of our Lord Jesus Christ, may you give to all whose eyes fall upon these words the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that they may know Jesus better. I pray also that the eyes of their heart may be enlightened in order that they may know the hope to which you have called them, the riches of your glorious inheritance in the saints, and your incomparably great power for us who believe.

That power is like the working of your mighty strength, which you exerted in Christ when you raised him from the dead and seated him at your right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And you, God, placed all things under Christ’s feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. 

When we feel doubt or fear, remind us of the power that dwells within us. Help us fix our eyes on Jesus, grasp hold of his outstretched hand, and rise above the challenges to complete the work you have called us to. In the mighty and powerful name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen!

Don’t forget your FREE Printables

After making the second graphic above, I decided I wanted a 4 x 6 of that for you as well. So click either or both buttons below to let me know which photo(s) to email to you. Enjoy!

Photo #1 is

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Photo # 2 is:

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Your turn... What causes you to become afraid or overwhelmed while trying to answer God’s call on your life? What helps you through the fear/overwhelm? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

How God Got My Attention with a Fruitless Fig Tree

Here in Texas, you do NOT want someone to say you are “all hat and no cattle.” In the same way, those of us who profess to follow Christ never want him to declare we are all leaves and no figs! Earlier this week, as I read the Gospel accounts of Holy Week, the puzzling account of Jesus cursing a fig tree captured my attention (Matthew 21:12-22 and Mark 11:12-24). I’ve read these passages before, scratched my head in confusion, and moved on to the more straight-forward parts of the story. This time, I couldn’t let go of this odd scene. I felt God encouraging me to linger, listen, and learn.

A Fig Tree

Modified version of a photo by Ian Scott / CC BY

A Fruitless Fig Tree

After Sunday’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, with the shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” still ringing in his ears, Jesus retreated to Bethany for the night. Early the next morning, a hungry Jesus trekked back to Jerusalem. I suspect the pain in his empty stomach mixed with the pain in his heart over the scene he witnessed the previous day in his Father’s house.

In the distance, he spotted a fig tree full of leaves. Good sign. Many leaves means much fruit when it comes to fig trees. Breakfast, coming up!

But where there should have been much fruit, Jesus found only leaves. Mark’s account disclosed it wasn’t the season for figs. So, at first, I wondered why Jesus would be disappointed and angry because the tree had no produce. But then I learned

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Make a Difference in Your World by Living Out 10 Eternal Truths

Do you ever wish you could make more of a difference in your world? I do, often. God has blessed me with much and in turn I want to impact the world around me in a way that brings God glory and others the peace, comfort, and joy he has given me. I bet you do too. So what might help us make more of a difference?

One way is to mine the lives of those who have used their gifts, talents, and resources to change their worlds. And as we do, we can extract principles we can put into effect in our lives that equip us to change our worlds. Since today is Martin Luther King Day, I thought his life would be the perfect place to start.

An Excellent Example

Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the best examples I know of someone who lived out the love of God, experience of grace, and knowledge of divine truth. And as he lived his life, he changed the world around him for the better.

MLK photo and quote

Image Source: Library of Congress; quote is from the book, King Rules by Alveda King.

His life was so grounded in God’s Word that he was able to stand firm against evil, injustice, and oppression, even when doing so meant risking his life and the lives of his family. He embodied Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 6:13.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.—Ephesians 6:13, NIV

I recently read his niece’s book, King Rules: Ten Truths for You, Your Family, and Our Nation to Prosper. I found it to be quite compelling and insightful. Alveda King tells the story of seven generations of her family through the lens of ten biblical principles that have guided and directed each generation. It was these ten truths that gave them courage to work for change in an unjust society, strength to overcome immense tragedies, and joy through the good and bad.

It is noted in the book that while the title “King Rules” conveys the fact that the King family was guided by these principles, these are really the rules of the King, Jesus Christ. These values endure and empower because they are eternal.
I’ve made you a cheat sheet of these ten principles. If you’d like a copy, just click the image or button below and I’ll email you a copy right away.

I’d like the FREE Cheat Sheet!

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How Our Past Can Be Used By God To Help Others

FREE Infographic: The Art of Self-Disclosure will help you share safely and effectively!

LiveFree Thursday I’m excited to be part of Suzanne Eller’s #LiveFree Thursday linkup. The following post ties into her prompt, ‘Our scars are beautiful.’ Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #LiveFree. Check out Suzanne’s post as well as all the other authors participating in the linkup.  And grab the FREE INFOGRAPHIC I’ve made you about the Art of Self-Disclosure. It will help you safely share the fruit of your beautiful scars.

Did you know the flavors detectable in a wine vary according to the environment in which the grapes grow? Check out the back of a bottle sometime and see how the wine maker emphasizes how the growing conditions give the vintage its unique taste. The effect changes based on things like the composition of the soil and exposure to sunlight, fog, or ocean breezes. Even the elevation at which the grapes grow impacts their flavor. And in God’s vineyard it is no different. We all take in the events, attitudes, and other influences in our environment, and our fruit reflects them.

What is our fruit?

Several Bible passages employ the metaphor of fruit when discussing the manifestations of our discipleship. The results or demonstrations of the love and mercy that overflow from our bond with Christ are examples of our fruit.

In John 15, Jesus used the metaphor to describe his relationship with his disciples and what would result from this special bond. Here, Jesus is the vine and those who follow him are the branches growing out of that vine. As we abide in Jesus, the Holy Spirit reveals our gifts and talents which combine with our particular life experiences to generate fruit unique to our bough. This outgrowth is exactly what the master Gardener (God the Father) designed us to make and that pleases and glorifies him.

Will My Rotten Past Produce Rotten Fruit?

Considering the impact our life experiences have on the characteristics of our fruit, perhaps you worry yours will be tainted by the negative things in your history. Here is why you need not let that concern you.

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I Want More! Do You?

This past week I chewed some more on one of the ideas from the Living Proof Live event: There is no stasis in our relationship with God. We either move forward toward him and his will for us or we move away. Reflecting on my life, I recognize the reality of this truth. I also better appreciate why the apostle Paul told the Philippians he wanted nothing more zealously than to know Christ even more. (Philippians 3:8-11) No matter how close we walk with God, we can always draw closer. And no matter how far we’ve wandered, we are only one U-turn away from reunion with him.

Photo courtesy of freeimages.com © ivanmarn.

Our walk with Christ is dynamic. As I reflected on this concept several things jumped out at me. See if these ring true with your experience.

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Our Family Took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Will You?

You’ve probably seen some of the hilarious videos of people getting buckets of ice water dumped over their heads to raise money and awareness for the ALS Association. This weekend, our youth pastor challenged all the sixth graders to take the challenge. My son, Justin, enthusiastically stepped up and proceeded to challenge other family members—including me! I’ve posted a  brief montage of our videos here. I hope you get a good laugh, and then join us in supporting the efforts of the ALS Association.

I was the only one in our family who didn’t have the sense to jump into the swimming pool as soon as the ice was dumped over me. The swimming pool was the quickest way to warm up.

I did my Ice Bucket Challenge in memory of Jean Ann Lautzenheiser. I was blessed to serve on several church committees with Jean Ann’s husband, Rich. This family set such an amazing example of how one’s faith can sustain through unimaginable suffering. They inspired so many.

Jean Ann, who loved the soft drink Mountain Dew, enlisted her supporters to don bright lime green t-shirts emblazoned with bright red letters proclaiming they were part of Jean Ann’s Dew Crew. The Dew Crew showed their support by participating in the annual Walk to Defeat ALS® event at Dell Diamond in Round Rock, Texas. So, if you were a part of her Dew Crew, I’ve challenged you in my video to take the Ice  Bucket Challenge (if you haven’t already) and make a donation in memory of Jean Ann!

Who did we challenge? Watch and find out!

I also nominated a few of my friends to take the challenge and Matt issued a challenge to someone. You have to watch the video to see if we issued you a challenge!

If you’d like to participate, record your own chilling experience and post a link to your video on my Making It Real Ministries Facebook page and/or  in the comments below. To make a donation or get more information about the ALS Association, visit their website by clicking this link.

Your turn: Have you taken the challenge? If so, post a link to your video in the comments. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

3 Surprising Ways Less Is More

There was a time not too long ago when I overloaded my schedule and every time I crossed an item off my to do list, three more jumped on. Each night, as my head hit the pillow, my thoughts raced with what remained undone from today and how to fit it into an already jam packed tomorrow. Then I had a breakthrough…

My Breakthrough

I gave myself permission to not do it all and shifted focus to what mattered most.

I also determined to do my best but not insist on perfection. After a couple of months of imperfect progress on this, I discovered three surprising ways less led to more in my life.

I’ll warn you now: these three concepts run counter to prevailing culture. But if you struggle with:

  • a jam-packed schedule,
  • taking ownership of things over which you really shouldn’t,
  • and/or perfectionism,

you’ll want to keep reading.

You’ll also want to grab the “Just Be” Checklist I’ve made for you. It’ll help you apply the concepts in this post.

Get Your FREE “Just Be” Checklist

Now, how can less lead to more?

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Remembering the Fallen

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) These words of Jesus echoed in my mind as I reflected on the men and women we, in the United States, honor this Memorial Day. In today’s post, I curated some information and links to several articles and resources I found meaningful as I prepared for my own personal observance of Memorial Day. I hope you’ll join me in pausing this day to remember those who fought and died to keep us free. And as we remember them and their sacrifice, may we also remember the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior which provides us with the greatest liberty: freedom from sin and to be in right relationship with God.

Photo courtesy of iStock Photo.com © Phototreat

History of Memorial Day

This national holiday began in the post-Civil War era. In the years after the war, communities gathered to remember family and friends who died in the war. Officially, the ceremony held in Waterloo, N.Y. on May 5, 1866 was recognized by Congress as the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. Town businesses closed their doors and residents flew flags at half-staff in honor of local veterans of the Civil War. Two years later, May 30 was established as Decoration Day, a time for the nation to honor the fallen by decorating the graves of soldiers with flowers.

After World War I, Decoration Day, also known as Memorial Day, encompassed remembering soldiers who died in all American wars. In 1971, an act of Congress designated Memorial Day a national holiday to be observed on the last Monday in May. In 2000,  Congress passed “The National Moment of Remembrance Act.” All Americans are called to pause at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. (Source: U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs)

Resources for Reflection and Remembrance

I pray these articles and resources assist you in your observance of Memorial Day. Just click on the article title (in purple, bold type) to open the article in a new window.

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