DayBreaks for 4/20/17 – Almost Home

DayBreaks for 4/20/17: Almost Home

From the DayBreaks archive, April 2007:

The little town of Franklin, TN, was the sight of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.  In the space of only 5 hours, 7000 men were killed and thousands of others wounded.  In that short amount of time, northern troops alone used up 100 wagon loads of ammunition.  Accounts written at the time described bodies being stacked six or seven deep for more than a mile along the Columbia Pike.  No one had ever seen anything like it.  The state of Tennessee didn’t have enough money to turn the entire area into a state park to commemorate the battle, but in the battleground stands the Carter house that now serves as a museum and memorial to this bloody battle. 

As terrible as the battle itself, there was one person who died on that day over 140 years ago that is arguably more tragic than the other 6999.  As the battle of Franklin raged, the Carters’ youngest son, Todd, was outside.  He was running for the shelter of home when he was struck down and died, virtually in the shadow of the house.  He was taken into the home dead.  Even today, more is probably written about that young boy who died in the battle than about any of the others who died. 

Several things about this story that struck me: 

First of all is the power of the death of the innocent.  It just doesn’t seem right when a young child is struck down because of the violence of adults.  Yet it happens.  And when the innocent die, people take notice.  An absolutely perfectly innocent person was struck down by our violence and sin.  And similar to Todd Carter, much has been written and said about him.  Jesus Christ, the innocent, was killed by us and for us.  He was almost home when he was “hit”, but he died willingly as a sacrifice – not running in terror. 

Secondly, I thought about how close we can come sometimes to being “home free” only to fail to actually arrive there.  We can’t control the people and events around us.  We know our intent – to get home safely – but sometimes things interfere with our well-laid plans, and in the shadow of the rooftop we fall.   I am very thankful that God is the One who will get us home.  I rejoice that He recognizes that I can’t make it on my own, that I alone would surely be cut down by Satan’s bullets.  He is able to handle our eternal destinies (2 Tim. 1:12).  We need to finish the race well, 2 Tim. 4:7-8, and not die in the home stretch.

The saddest thing, though, is to hear about those who are almost on the porch of the house and ready to enter, but who Satan snatches at the last moment.  The story of Paul’s defense before Agrippa is heart-wrenching, from Acts 26:28-29a: Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”  Paul replied, “Short time or long– I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am….”  There is no evidence Agrippa “made it home”.  How tragic and sad.

There are those today who are almost home but who aren’t quite there yet.  What a tragedy if we let them languish so close to heaven’s door. 

PRAYER: Thank You, Father, for the innocent Christ who died for us.  Help us to understand that we don’t control the events that swirl around our lives, but that in You, we are safe forever.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2017 by Galen Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 2/17/16 – Home, Boys, Home!

View from the rock wall behind which the Union troops watched as the Confederate troops began the ill-fated Pickett’s charge across this open field. 

DayBreaks for 2/17/16: Home, boys, home!

One of the most amazing and deadly military attacks that ever took place was at the battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. It was by all accounts a hot day. The two massive armies of the Confederacy and the Army of the Potomac had already been battering one another for two long, hot days. The Union army held the high ground all along Cemetery Ridge and had beaten back attacks on July 1 and 2. There were those who felt that there would be no battle on the 3rd due to the beating both armies had inflicted on each other – that the troops were simply too tired and there was nothing to be gained by further pressing the issue.

In spite of the advice of some of his most trusted generals, Robert E. Lee believed that if they could win the battle at Gettysburg then the war which had already raged for two long and deadly years would come to an end as there would be nothing between the Confederate army and Washington, DC. He believed that the Union would be forced to surrender.

Certainly, he was tired of the war and destruction, of the cries of the dying and wounded. He longed for it to be over. And perhaps that is why he decided on one more attack. The prior two days they had attacked at the northern and southern ends of the Union lines. On July 3, Lee believed that if his army massed an attack at the center of the Union line that they could break through to the final victory and they would win the war.

General Pickett was chosen to lead the assault. Between the Confederates and the Union armies was nearly an entire mile of open ground with no cover – and it was uphill to the Union position which was on the high ground. Approximately 12,500 Confederate soldiers stretched in a one-mile long line left the shelter of trees to march across that deadly space separating the armies. It wasn’t long before artillery shells of canister (like giant shotgun shells) was bursting over the heads of the Confederates as they plodded up the hill. Massive casualties resulted…and the the musket balls and bullets began to tear into the advancing soldiers when they got within range. Men fell by the hundreds…dead, dying, maimed. Yet they kept marching and actually broke through the Union line at one small point before the charge collapsed.

What enables men to make such a determined march in the face of nearly certain death or dismemberment? On that particular day, they were motivated by one special cry that was to dominate their thinking. It wasn’t the Rebel yell, it was something much simpler and dear to their hearts. They had been told that if they won that day that “Home is just over that hill, boys.” The cry that drive them forward that day across that deadly space was simple: “Home, boys, home!”

In the space of less than an hour, 6,555 Confederate troops fell, over 50% of the men who had started the charge.

The power of home is not to be underestimated as a motivating factor. That is why we are encouraged to not lose heart: So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Cor. 4:16-18 (ESV)

The soldiers on July 3 couldn’t see “home”, it was out of sight, but it drove them to incredible heights of courage and bravery. When we are tempted to surrender to life, to give up on the effort of living as a Christ-follower, let the cry of “Home, children, home!” remind us that our home is just over the hill – and He will see to it that we get there!

TODAY’S PRAYER: Lord, I confess that it is very easy to surrender to the difficulties of this life and forget about what it ahead of us, of the all-surpassing home that You have prepared for us! Let us never lose the longing to be with You in that place that is now out of our sight, yet destined to be our eternal residence! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, all rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 07/10/12 – A Kindness Returned

DayBreaks for 07/10/12 – A Kindness Returned

1 Thessalonians 5:15 (NLT) – See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.

Shortly after the tragedy of 9/11, a wonderful story of giving was reported by Page Ivey of The Associated Press. It emerged from a school-house in Columbia, South Carolina.

First you have to have some historical perspective. Two years after the Civil War, with much of Columbia still in ruins, some of the bitterness over the North-South conflict was put aside by a single gesture: New York firefighters set out to collect pennies to buy Columbia a fire truck.

On February 17, 1865, a devastating blaze…had devoured over 36 blocks, or about one-third of the city. Columbia had lost most of its firefighting equipment during the Civil War and desperately used bucket brigades in their attempt to douse flames.

Not long after, New York City firemen, many of them former Union soldiers, raised $5,000—mostly in pennies—and put a hose-reel wagon on a steamship bound for Columbia, South Carolina. It was March of 1867. On the way, the ship sank, but instead of giving up, they took up another collection and sent a second hose-reel wagon in June of that same year.

So overwhelmed was former Confederate Colonel Samuel Melton that he made a promise on behalf of South Carolina’s capital city to return the kindness “should misfortune ever befall the Empire City.”

After 9/11, White Knoll principal Nancy Turner and her teachers were trying to find some tangible way their students could respond to the attacks. The children were too young to give blood, and no one liked the idea of simply sending money to an impersonal national fund. Eventually the decision was made to collect money to buy a fire truck.

Then Turner stumbled on records of New York’s long-ago gift while researching the cost and what type of truck to buy. It was easy to get city leaders and the state governor, Jim Hodges, to join in. Columbia’s fire chief was a New York native. The effort was renamed “South Carolina Remembers.” After 134 years, the day to remember came and the children of Columbia took it on themselves to honor that pledge.

They collected pennies at football games, held bake sales, and sold T-shirts in a drive to raise the $350,000 needed to replace one of the dozens of New York City firetrucks destroyed in the 9/11 attacks.

The idea began from a lesson in giving. Donations poured in. One donor wrote: “When I was growing up in Columbia, Mama always said you need to return a kindness. I know she’d be as glad as I am to be part of this wonderful thank-you gesture.”

In notes to the students, donors told personal stories connecting them with loved ones who died on 9/11, to firefighters, and in one case, to Confederate soldiers.

In her article, Page Ivey tells about one of the most unforgettable donations, coming from Russell Siller of Rockville Centre, New York. Siller’s brother, Stephen, was part of the elite firefighter force Squad 1. He died that terrible day. Siller wrote: “At a time like this, when the whole nation is still mourning its loss, what a powerful and poetic message your efforts send to all of us. I am proud that New York’s bravest sent you a fire truck in your city’s time of need. … To think that you would honor a pledge made so many years ago! The new fire truck will become a symbol for your love for your country, and for New York’s bravest.”  –  “A Kindness Returned-134 Years Later,” Building Adult Ministries (3-31-08); taken from an Associated Press story by Page Ivey

What a wonderful story!  Now let’s get personal: do you repay evil for evil, or seek to do something good for all people, including those who may have hurt you directly?  It’s a tough challenge, but it is in the imitation of Christ, and we are commanded to live that way!

PRAYER: Jesus, we need your heart and mind in this matter!  We are far to prone to strike back at those who have caused us injury or pain rather than seeking to bless them with something good.  Change our natures, change our hearts and minds, until we see, and act, as you would!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2012 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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