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December 31, 2010
Written By: Martha Kester

I know it's been way too long since I've blogged - it's one of those things I think about but don't seem to get around to and for that I am sorry.  Life in Afghanistan is going fine - we have been fortunate so far that none of my soldiers have been seriously wounded so keep up the prayers.

I've started a daily email devotion that I send out to about 30 of my soldiers and thought I would share with you today's devotion.

Deuteronomy 30:11-14; 19-20
Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. . . . This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.

Life is full of choices, of decisions - some are more important than others yet they all have consequences attached to them.  As we come to the end of 2010 and look to welcome the New Year, let us think about what we hope for this year.  We always talk about New Year's resolutions - a new start - a new beginning - we set goals to do something we feel we should and yet how many of us have ever seen our New Year's resolutions through till the end of the year?  I know I haven't - I'm usually lucky if I make it till 2 January!! So I decided to give up on them and yet what if it would be a choice to live a different way; though relying on God's strength not my own to see them through.  I realized that the reason I failed is I failed to see the One who will give me the strength to receive the blessing of a life lived for God.
In the passage above the people are being given the opportunity to start anew - Too often we say that we can't know what God wants of us . . . I know I've always told Him if He would just skywrite what He wants me to do it would make life so much easier.  I think God needs to learn to text us His desires and yet in many ways He has; He's made it plain if we are willing to listen, to see what He's shown us - through other people, through scripture, through our own conscious - He then leaves the choice up to us.  He asks: What kind of person do you want to be?   How do you want your life to be remembered?  And so each day He sets before us a choice of how we are going to live.  He has set before us "life and death, blessing and curses" which do we choose?  Moses is talking to the Israelites who struggled over and over with choosing the blessing and yet still God returned to say again - choose life, choose the blessing because that is what He ultimately desires for His children.
Songs especially the lyrics have a strong impact on me as I often get tunes stuck in my head.   I have the tune "The Blessing" by John Waller as my ringtone (in my other life that is) and I do because it reminds me to choose again the blessing & life God has to offer so I might in some small way be a blessing to someone else.  The lyrics point out the reality of the Deuteronomy passage that the choice is ours.

Let it be said of us, while we walked among the living,
Let it be said of us, by the ones we leave behind,
Let it be said of us, that we lived to be a blessing for life.
And let it be said of us, that we gave to reach the dying,
Let it be said of us, by the fruit we leave behind,
Let it be said of us, that our legacy is blessing for life.

This day, you set life, you set death right before us,
This day, every blessing and curse is a choice now,
And we will choose to be a blessing for life.

Let it be said of us, that our hearts belonged to Jesus,
Let it be said of us, that we spoke the words of life,
Let it be said of us, that our heritage is blessing for life.
'Cause our blessings and curses are choices
'Cause our blessings and curses are choices
Will we build up, tear down, the moment of truth
So as we come to the dawn of a new year (the year we go home!!) let our resolution be to see the choices that God has placed before us and to choose life - to choose Him and then allow Him to show you how that will play out in your life.
God bless and Happy New Year


All Hallow's Eve
Evidence of the Cloud of witnesses
October 30, 2010
Written By: Martha Kester

Okay, I know I'm a day early for Halloween yet since I leave tomorrow on pass for four days thought I would get this blog written today. And since I will be at the Saints game in New Orleans tomorrow night felt it was even more appropriate.

Too often we forget the history behind events and as a culture tend to have very short memories, to our discredit.  I would say many people, Christians especially, do not understand the connection we have with Halloween.  Since it has become a secular celebration the signification is lost.  All Hallow's Eve [Halloween] actually is closely connected with the Christian church's All Saint's Day (November 1st) and All Soul's Day (November 2nd)  As Wikipedia points out, "The word Halloween is first attested in the 16th century and represents a Scottish variant of the fuller All-Hallows-Even ("evening"), that is, the night before All Hallows Day [or All Saint's Day]"  It is also believed that "Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of souling, when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas [aka All Saints Day] receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day."

So this year as we take our kids out on beggar's night (whenever that is scheduled for in your community) remember that there is significance behind what is going on.  We stand as a Christian community, especially on All Saint's day, on the legacy that has been left by the faithful saint's who have gone before us.  The church remembers and celebrates the many dedicated believers that often gave up their lives so that we would know the truth of the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus which is offered to us through his death and resurrection.  Yet the sad state is many times we forget that foundation passed down to us and focus only on our own experience, to our own spiritual detriment.  God desires us to stand solidly on sound scriptural teaching, seeking His truth not our own desires; so that when we come face to face with Him, we can hear the words 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' (Matthew 25:23)

In the book of Hebrew the writer tells us: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." (Hebrews 12:1) In my mind that is what All Souls Day helps us to remember; that we are surrounded by those that have gone before.  They are a witness to us in 2010 as to the desire of God for us, to know Him, to follow Him, to serve Him.  Don't let our minds be so shortsighted that we are unable to throw off the deceptions of our secular society that we miss the mark and lose our way.

In the same way you all are being that cloud of witnesses to myself and to my soldiers.  I've attached a picture of my office that shows what I mean.  All the cards, emails, phone calls and care packages continually remind us that we are not in this alone.  There is a community that is faithfully uplifting us in prayer and standing behind us that we might not be hindered but able to run this race that God has called us to at this time. 

God bless you all.

October 16, 2010
Written By: Martha Kester

This Sunday's gospel from Luke 18:1-8 is quite appropriate in terms of my recent encounters here at Camp Shelly.  The persistent widow is something we need to learn when we seek to know God but it also is appropriate when dealing with humans as well.  I often wonder what would have happened if she had not gone back that last time . . .

Many of you have heard my encounter with case management in terms of my injury to my ankle.  After being good and using the crutches for two weeks I went back to the Doctor in Hattiesburg who said that I no longer needed the crutches but would need to slowly over the next 6 weeks rehab the ankle to where I could begin to run again.  He did not need to see me again and wished me luck on my deployment. (side note: It's cool who God places in your life as this guy was a believer and an Army brat himself.  He was heading to Israel on a two week mission trip and we were able to pray for each other's ministry)

Well I went to Camp Shelby's case management that next Monday to get myself closed out and back in a deployable state; however, was told since the doctor did not write the word closed or cleared I needed to continue to come in.  They called the clinic to ask for the notes from the doctor and until they got them my case would remain open.  So I went back three days later and they did get the note from the doctor that I needed to re-acclimate myself over the next 6 weeks to normal activity.  However, I still needed to come into case management.  Of course being the logical person I asked why?  She had no answer and said but you need to re-acclimate over the next 6 weeks.  Exactly and I'm on a temporary profile saying I cannot run or do anything high impact for the next 6 weeks so why do I need to come in?  Again she went back to the 'man behind the curtain' came back and said but you need to re-acclimate that's what the doctor said.  Again I asked why? since that is what the temporary profile is for . . . She left - came back and said but can you do your normal activities my reply was yes because I'm on a temporary profile. . . She left - came back but you need to re-acclimate over the next 6 weeks.  Finally, I told her - look if I have an open case with you I cannot deploy with my unit who will be gone within the next 6 weeks.  Unless you can tell me why I need to come in here to see you when I am on a temporary profile and how that is any different from getting a profile from the TMC (where I would never have even been in their system) you need to close my case.  She left - when she came back this time she stated - we've decided to close your case. 

Persistence pays off!!  So now I have been cleared and am again in a deployable status.  Much to the delight of my soldiers, who came back yesterday.  Again the question . . .what would have happened if I hadn't been persistent, if I had stopped?  How often do we miss what God is desiring to do in our lives because we don't persevere - How long is too long?  We cannot know the mind of God - and what we have been called to do is to come before him day and night - to be persistent in season and out.  Will you have the faith to be persistent before God in whatever is going on in your life? Because that is the only way we can remain in a deployable state so God can use us for his mission.

Recent Entries
Happy New Year
All Hallow's Eve
Lectionary thoughts
Isaiah 55:8
It's the little things

Angel Food Ministries & Outreach
Pastor Martha Kester

Dec 2010 - 1 entry
Oct 2010 - 2 entries
Sep 2010 - 3 entries
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