One Veteran’s Story

What you are about to read is true. I know the people involved, and I see the pain. I see the frustration, and the toll taken on the marriage, the children, and other relationships.

I have changed names and some details in order to protect the privacy of the people involved. They live in Anywhere, USA. This story, sadly, is repeated thousands of times across the United States of America, land of the free, home of the brave, and place of very little refuge for our warriors.

Suicide among veterans is rising. Every day, 22 of our soldiers ,who have returned to a homeland in which they don’t feel at home, take their own lives. They are in despair. There is so little help from the government they fought to protect.

Yes, we have Veteran’s Hospitals, and benefits, and therapy groups. The problem is that the need far surpasses the help available.

Brandon was in Afghanistan about ten years ago. He loved being a soldier, and he was good at it. He loved the camaraderie, and he loved the order of the military. He’d grown up in a home filled with alcoholism, fighting, verbal and physical violence. The army, for him, was his first taste of  feeling as if he actually belonged somewhere.

He and the other soldiers  spent a lot of time guarding the small village near the army base. They got to know the little kids, who, once they learned that the Americans weren’t there to hurt them, would come out every day and ask for chocolate, and to just hang out with the soldiers.

One day, Brandon was ordered to train the gun on the top of his tank onto a busload of women and children. There had been a report that someone on the bus may have a bomb, and Brandon’s superior officer wanted him to be ready to obliterate the bus. At first, Brandon refused.  He knew most of the kids, knew some of the mothers. He really had no choice unless he was willing to face a court martial, and as it turned out, there was no bomb. But that experience  hurt his soul.

Another time, he watched enviously while a dozen of his buddies boarded a chopper to go on some much-needed R and R. An hour or so later, the base was notified that the helicopter had gone down in a sand storm, all lives lost.

And still another time, he had ordered one of his best buddies to take a certain position  during a sweep of the village, and his buddy got blown apart right in front of him.

He himself was hit by an IED. His wounds weren’t life-threatening, but he did sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that went undiagnosed until ten years later. He has horrible migraines now, along with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  I also believe there is a strong possibility he has Bipolar Disorder, and I advised him to see a psychiatrist to be evaluated for that.

The rest of the story is one of complete frustration. He has searched for help in the Vet’s Administration, at two different Vet’s hospitals in the area, and even tried an out-of-state facility that works specifically with vets who have PTSD. They wouldn’t take him because of the TBI and because he hasn’t tried to commit suicide within 48 hours of his contact with them.

The Veteran’s hospitals have put him off repeatedly.  They’ve referred him to out-patient psychiatrists who (1) are not taking new patients (2)retired three months ago  (3) will see him only once for a quick evaluation and medication suggestions but will not prescribe. They even set him up with (they said) a psychiatrist who would Skype with him from all the way across the country but who was actually a psychologist and could not prescribe for him. He has to get any scripts from the Vet’s hospital, not an independent psychiatrist. But the Vet’s hospital won’t fill a script for him because they haven’t seen him for evaluation.

Do you see what is happening here?

This man is just one of thousands who cannot get the help he needs within the Veteran’s Administration. He will get a bed in a VA hospital only if he attempts suicide. Otherwise, he’s been told, “Well, Mr. X, because you didn’t follow our recommendations, you’re now being bumped to the bottom of the list.  We’ll call you when we can see you.”

It doesn’t matter that he DID try to follow protocol.  It doesn’t matter that everything he tried was a brick wall.

Thanks in part to an administration that is strongly anti-military, huge hospitals like Walter Reed in Washington, D.C. have been shut down for lack of funds. That one just boggles my mind.  I was there with my veteran husband several years ago while he got fitted for hearing aids, and the place was incredibly busy. Some of the patients there were transferred to other facilities; some were just sent home and told to follow up with private doctors. That’s not always a simple process, either. A quick search told me that 83% of doctors have at least considered leaving the profession because of Obamacare. I couldn’t find a supportable statistic as to how many have actually quit or taken early retirement.

The fact is, when the government takes over anything, there is incredible bureaucracy that results in delays, rising costs, lost records, rules that no one knows about and many don’t understand. Efficiency decreases and the quality of care depends on financing, and we all know how broke the government is.

Well, Brandon and his family are considering a move to a less-populated place near a Veteran’s hospital where he hopes he can get better help.  They’re doing the homework right now to see if this is a good idea or just another effort in futility. In the meantime, Brandon can’t work because of his debilitating headaches. He gets some disability pay. His wife does what she can to bring in some income, but she also has three children and an angry husband to deal with.

This is just one story. I know that it is representative of thousands all across this country.

We need to do better.  We need to restore funding to provide quality help for our soldiers.We need to quit making it totally unappealing for medical people to stay in their profession.

We need to do better.

Conditional Blessings

Isaiah 1: 19-20. “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”

Some verses to cross-reference include  Lev.  26:40;  Deut. 7:12; 28:1; 30:1; Jer. 17:24;  I John 1:7.

God makes this statement over and over in the scriptures:  Obedience brings blessing, and disobedience brings correction. The key is in being willing. Judah had lost her way, and was no longer willing to be obedient. She had, once again, turned to the idolatry of the surrounding nations, engaging in all the immorality that accompanied  idolatry. She was no longer concerned with the holiness of God, and would reap the reward for her disobedience.

So I’ve been thinking, with nearly every post so far, how closely this all resembles America. Once a nation founded upon the principles of God’s Word, we have turned so far away, as a nation, that surely we will reap the discipline predicted for Israel. We cannot turn from His Law and expect His blessing.  It just doesn’t work that way.  Someone posted a video yesterday in which Mrs. Clinton  says that our religious beliefs about abortion MUST change!   Others are telling us that our religious beliefs about homosexuality MUST change. Those are just two examples.  There are many, many more.

When we accept the idea that our beliefs must change by turning from God’s Word and replacing  Him with man’s philosophies, then we are disobedient.

We won’t get away with it.

Ten Demands

Isaiah 1:16-18. “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes;  cease to do evil: Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 

If you will count the words in blue, you will find that God gives Judah ten specific demands if they desire to be restored to fellowship with Him.

  1.  Wash yourself
  2.  Make yourself clean
  3.  Put away your own evil deeds
  4.   Cease to do evil
  5.  Learn to do well
  6. Seek judgment
  7. Relieve the oppressed
  8.  Judge the fatherless
  9. Plead for the widow
  10.  Come to Me now, and let us reason together

The washing and cleansing are symbolic of a repentant heart. When we are remorseful over sin and truly repent, seeking forgiveness, then we will indeed put away our evil deeds; we will cease to continually do evil and learn to do well.  To seek judgment is to seek to have discernment. The heart will be soft to see the needs of the fatherless and the widow.

Best of all, God says, “Come to Me now, I pray you.” He wants our obedience, not to show that He’s the One in charge; He wants it because our obedience shows that we love Him (Matt. 22:37). He is ready and willing to teach us how to forsake our sin and cling to Him.

That invitation still stands.  As long as we have life, it is not too late to turn to Him.

Hands Full of Blood

Isaiah 1: 10-15. “Hear the Word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom: give ear unto the Law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.  When ye come to appear before Me, who hath required this at your hand to tread My courts?  Bring no more vain oblations: incense is an abomination unto Me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with: it is iniquity, even the solemn meetings.  Your new moons and your appointed feasts My soul hateth: they are a trouble unto Me: I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide Mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear:y our hands are full of blood.”

Isaiah had to know that the words he was given by God would not make him popular.  I think that those who were faithful prophets were men of great courage, then and now.

Of particular disgust to God was the appearance of piety and godliness that overlaid the behavior of His people. There was an overlay of religion that failed to cover the things that God said were an abomination to Him.  It was that hypocrisy that offended Him most of all.

The people were keeping certain elements of the Law. They were observing feasts and sacrifices, and burning their incense, but their hearts were very far away from the truth and the holiness of God.   The conscience of God’s people, then and now, can become so seared that they can practice religion while living in sin, and feel no remorse.

When God says He will turn His eyes away from hands lifted up to Him because those hands are of full of blood, He is not talking only about actual murder.  The word blood is plural here, and points not only to murder but to acts of violence similar to murder, and to bribes which purchased the ruin of widows and orphans (Micah 3:9-11).

God is not fooled by an appearance of godliness. He sees the heart.  He sees our hearts. The appearance of obedience  is meaningless when it comes from a heart of duplicity.

 

Like Sodom and Gomorrah

Isaiah 1:9.  “Except  the Lord of hosts  had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.”

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah still lie desolate.  Excavation has shown that these cemetery remains burned from the top down, giving credence to the Bible’s statement of God sending fire down from heaven to consume the cities.

Judah, says Isaiah, has been saved only by a very small remnant  of the faithful from becoming like Sodom and Gomorrah, a strong indictment against those cities, and against the faithless of Judah.

In Rev. 11:8, Jerusalem is described as Sodom.  Ezek. 16:40 tells us that the sins of Sodom were pride, lust, luxury and cruelty, and now both the rulers of Jerusalem and the people under them are guilty of the same behaviors.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the specific reasons God is angry with Judah, in verses 10-15.  It’s quite familiar, really, when compared to America today.

Sunday Morning Coffee: Memories

I’ve been in  quite a contemplative mood this past week.  Not sure why. Maybe because I see my country turning in a direction I never thought it would, no matter who wins this upcoming election.  Anyway, this morning I’ve been thinking about all the Sunday mornings of my life.There’s been a lot of change over the years, but the one constant has always been that church is the focus.

Growing up, Sunday meant Saturday night hair washing, a bath, getting my hair set in what seemed like a hundred tiny pin curls.  There were clothes reserved for Sundays only. Remember Sunday clothes, school clothes, play clothes? I loved my Sunday clothes, especially if I had pretty shoes.We’d get dressed, Mom would brush out the Shirley Temple curls, and then we’d sit quietly and wait. No getting messed up.  No getting dirty. I loved church, and always anticipated seeing friends I didn’t go to school with. Loved the opening exercises, where we sang and had Bible drills, and  usually a flannel graph story. Church itself was a solemn affair back then, but not dull. We just knew we were in a special place. I loved the big pipe organ, and the congregation rising to sing Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty. Still give me goose bumps to think about it.

In my teens, I did my own hair.  No more Shirley Temple, believe me.  The “flip” was the in thing for longer hair, and we teased and sprayed. When my hair was shorter, it was less trouble. I went back and forth in length, enjoyed playing around with different styles.  Dad had become the pastor of a little church in southern Minnesota, and I often got to play the piano. Also, I taught little kids, and was involved with my mom and sister in a trio; later, began to do solo work. Youth group was fun in the evenings, and we almost always had company for Sunday dinner.

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College was so different. No more family stuff. It was a leisurely day, and I looked forward to it. For one thing, there would be no work.  I had a cashier job in a grocery store, and back then there weren’t any stores open on Sundays. It was good. Things sure were different 50 years ago!  There was also dating going on, so special care with the hair, the makeup I was just starting to use, and the dress for the day. The preaching was good. The music was always wonderful.

Then I got married, and at first Sunday mornings were fairly easy. But– along came four babies, and Sunday mornings became much more complicated.  I’m a very organized person, and by the time the fourth baby came along, I had it down to a science. We always enjoyed a special breakfast on Sunday, and the kids didn’t get dressed until after we ate! I usually was also making meal preparations while breakfast was under way. Terry was on duty with the church bus ministry, so getting everyone else going was entirely up to me.  Somehow, we were always ready to go in time.  I do remember feeling worn out before we ever got to church, but it was always worth it. The church was big, full of excitement. The music was always great, and the teaching and preaching as well. We had a church family that we loved, Those were very good years at the church we attended.

Well, time passes and things have changed. I’m still up early, because it’s about a 40-minute drive to church now. I don’t fix a big breakfast any more. We’ve changed the way we eat as we’ve grown older. Terry takes care of himself, and I sit here with my bagel and my coffee, relaxing with some good music in the peace and stillness before Terry gets up. It’s just a bit after 7 a.m., and we’ll leave around 8:30.  It’s taken us a little longer to feel completely comfortable in our new church, mostly because of the distance, but that’s getting better all the time.  We’re becoming as much a part of the ministry as we can, and we’re enjoying getting to know people.

The thing that has been the glue down through the years has always been the Word preached faithfully, taught faithfully. The love of God, the dedication to His Word, has united people who share out faith with us all through the years.  It’s a great heritage.

I love Sunday morning.

A Besieged City

Isaiah 1:7-8. “Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.”

In these two verses, Isaiah no longer uses metaphors. He changes to direct language which recalls the punishment threatened to Israel in Lev. 26:33; Deut. 28:49-52; 29:22-23. which had come to pass. The land had been abundantly productive under Uzziah, King of Judah (II Chron. 26:10), but now wickedness was so prevalent that  Is. 9:18 describes it as “burning like a fire.”

In verse 8, Israel is pictured not as a nurturing, protective mother. Instead  she is described as a daughter, and the description is expressive of the tenderness that God had felt toward Israel, as a mother for her young daughter. Now, Jerusalem’s population was depleted. The city, once beautiful, had become nothing more than a hut or a shack in a vineyard, a booth or hammock for a garden-keeper to use to scare animals away.  It was a besieged city, isolated and in great difficulty.