The Fourth of July and a Son in Iraq

This Fourth of July feels very different from any other. And it’s not just because, as Woody and I spend what looks to be a quiet (and welcomed!) weekend at home (and he’s not even on call—yea! No beeper!), we will reminisce about many past July celebrations when we hosted big family cookouts in celebration of our son Bjorn’s birthday, which happens to be July 7.
At these family celebrations, we always gave lip service, at least, to our gratitude for our freedom and our country. As we said the blessing over our barbecue, we thanked God for freedom to live our faith and celebrate with family and friends.

But this year it’s different.

It’s different because this year we have a son in Iraq. A son who joined the Marines after college and became a Marine officer and C-130 pilot because he wanted to serve and defend his country and the very freedoms we celebrate this weekend.

The price of freedom comes a lot closer to home this year. Our son—and the many thousands of other enlisted men and women serving abroad—will spend this Fourth of July away from home so that we can celebrate freely in our homes.

The price of freedom has always been high. There have always been brave and committed men and women spending holidays away from their families in defense of their country. Not to mention those whose families will never have their sons and daughters, husbands and wives, and parents, home for a holiday again this side of Heaven. For them the price of freedom is incalculable.

But whatever level you’re on, it just feels a lot closer to home for us this year when our son is so far from home.

So I’m just asking a small favor of any of you faithful blog-readers. This year as you flip those burgers on the grill or wave those flags at the parade or watch those fireworks displays, will you say a prayer for our son Lars? And for all those multitudes of men and women he represents who are celebrating this holiday far away from family and friends?

Say a prayer of gratitude, please. And a prayer for their safety and protection. And for their spirits. It gets awfully lonely in the middle of an Iraqi desert or in the wilds of Afghanistan or on a ship at sea. Or any other place which is far far away from family and friends.

Most of all, say a prayer, please, that they will feel God’s presence even in whatever desert place is their current home-away-from home. That they will know that they abide “under the shadow of the Almighty.” Nearly every day I pray Psalm 91 for Lars, a Psalm I memorized many years ago as a teen. I never could have imagined I would be praying it for a son in Iraq so many years later.

When you pray for out troops, will you please pray also for their families? I wish you could meet some of the amazingly courageous young moms I have met in recent years who are “single-momming it” while their husbands are deployed. Kelly—and Lars—represent so many, many others walking the same path.

Just before Lars left for Iraq last January, Woody gave him and Kelly each a card to carry in their wallets. The cards had a brief message from us on one side and some strong promises from scripture on the other: For Lars, Jeremiah 1:18-19 and Joshua 1:9; for Kelly, Psalm 16:8 and Philippians 4:6-7. (For more about Lars and his family, see the January 30th blog, “Deployment Day.”)

Now, some 5 months later, we continue to pray those verses for them. And as his return to his family gets closer (he hopes to be home around mid-August), I find myself praying especially that God will guard and surround and protect him in body, soul, mind, and spirit. That the Philippians 4:6-7 peace of God will “guard his heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” I pray this every day. But especially on this Independence Day.

Will you join me?

Happy Fourth of July!