Friday, November 20, 2015

Parade #139

"But many who are first will be last, and the last shall be first." Matthew 19:30

Just seven days have passed since the nation celebrated those who have fought to defend our freedom and the values we, as Americans, cherish. I was excited to participate with the Homeless Veterans Services of Dallas (HVSD) and march with a large contingency of veterans who are homeless on our city streets. 

For the past two months, the ministry's Military Initiative (Battle-Buddy Info) has been coordinating  Community Partners and resources for the "Stand Down" week honoring veterans at the Veterans Resource Center. Although I had heard the term "stand down" bantered about among my veteran friends, I thought since I was actually involved in orchestrating some of the events, I'd better be clear on what it means in the military culture. 

The "Stand Down" order, I was told, means stop everything you are doing and do what the Commanding Officer tells you to attend to immediately and without question. 

"A soldier on duty doesn't get caught up in making deals at the marketplace. He concentrates on carrying out orders." 2 Timothy 2:4 The Message

"Stand Down" events are typically held by Veterans' organizations around Veterans Day to stop normally scheduled programs to allow for tribute and special services to be provided. This year the HVSD expanded the time of honor to be nine days! This included marching in one of the nation's largest Veterans Day parades in hopes of raising awareness on the issue of homelessness among our nation's warriors. 

We arrived and were directed to our spot: #139. At the time we didn't know what that meant. The parking lot where all the high school marching bands, floats and various VFW groups were assembling was vast and filling up slowly. 

We saw local and national groups we're associated with, and shared our excitement about being in the parade. One friend, an active duty Naval Officer asked who we were marching with, wondering why we weren't with their organization on the other side of the parking lot. My associate shared we were there with HVSD. "Homeless veterans?" He said quizzically. "Where are veterans homeless?" We then pointed out the two huge armored transport vehicles filled with the veterans we had been serving during"But many who are first will be last, and the last shall be first." Matthew 19:30

Just seven days have passed since the nation celebrated those who have fought to defend our freedom and the values we, as Americans, cherish. I was excited to participate with the Homeless Veterans Services of Dallas (HVSD) and march with a large contingency of veterans who are homeless on our city streets. 

For the past two months, the ministry's Military Initiative (Battle-Buddy Info) has been coordinating  Community Partners and resources for the "Stand Down" week honoring veterans at the Veterans Resource Center. Although I had heard the term "stand down" bantered about among my veteran friends, I thought since I was actually involved in orchestrating some of the events, I'd better be clear on what it means in the military culture. 

The "Stand Down" order, I was told, means stop everything you are doing and do what the Commanding Officer tells you to attend to immediately and without question. 

"A soldier on duty doesn't get caught up in making deals at the marketplace. He concentrates on carrying out orders." 2 Timothy 2:4 The Message

"Stand Down" events are typically held by Veterans' organizations around Veterans Day to stop normally scheduled programs to allow for tribute and special services to be provided. This year the HVSD expanded the time of honor to be nine days! This included marching in one of the nation's largest Veterans Day parades in hopes of raising awareness on the issue of homelessness among our nation's warriors. 

We arrived and were directed to our spot: #139. At the time we didn't know what that meant. The parking lot where all the high school marching bands, floats and various VFW groups were assembling was vast and filling up slowly. 

We saw local and national groups we're associated with, and shared our excitement about being in the parade. One friend, an active duty Naval Officer asked who we were marching with, wondering why we weren't with their organization on the other side of the parking lot. My associate shared we were there with HVSD. "Homeless veterans?" He said quizzically. "Where are veterans homeless?" We then pointed out the two huge armored transport vehicles filled with the veterans we had been serving during the week, as well as the twenty or so marching and carrying the banner stating the name of the organization: Homeless Veterans Services of Dallas. 

He was shocked. He made thoughtful comments on how he was not aware of the needs in our own community, as well as committing to take action to help.   
Rain had been predicted all week, but the weather was with us and the sun was shining brightly down on the streets of Dallas. The start of the parade was at 11:11. We had been there since 8:30 am.  Our convoy consisting of 20 marchers, 1 Pickup Truck (courtesy of Semper Fi Heating and Air) and 2 armored transport vehicles carrying more than 30 additional homeless or under-served veterans left the staging area at 1:00

Parade #139 was two spots away from dead last. 

By the time we were slowly moving through the streets, many of the bystanders had already left. The temporary grandstands in front of City Hall (where the parade concluded) were almost empty. Not many people had their awareness raised about the issue we were there for, but we weren't all that surprised. 

I'm guilty of turning my head away from "those people" who stand on the street corners holding makeshift signs to make me aware of their plight. "Homeless, please help." Even though I have committed my life to serving, when it comes to individuals approaching me in the safety and comfort of my car (cool in the summer, warm in the winter), I look away. I'm not sure if it's discomfort, fear or shame. But I'm working on it. 

As a ministry, one way we are working on "it," is officing at the Veterans Resource Center and partnering with HVSD to locate resources and non-profits in the community that offer assistance to veterans in crisis. It has been challenging but one of the most rewarding things we've ever done!

The next challenge comes December 19th, when we will once again coordinate Veteran Services for the Operation Care International Christmas event. Last year we served over 700 veterans (amidst a crowd of 15,000)! 

After last week, hearing the stories and challenges faced by those who have served our country I can't say, "we desperately need your help." I met far too many desperate VETERAN men AND women, hungry and homeless. 

But I will not hesitate to say WE NEED YOUR HELP to help them!

"Not that I seek the gift, but I seek what may be credited to your account." Philippians 4:17

TODAY: 
Make a financial contribution to the ministry, it ALL counts*!
To donate online visit our website: www.sunshineafterrain.org

By mail:
Sunshine After Rain Ministries
10024 Regal Park Lane
Suite 217
Dallas TX 75230


Pray for the ministry and those working to "serve those who served." To quote Oswald Chambers, "Prayer IS the work."

If you are in the Dallas Fort Worth area, sign up to be one of our Volunteer Army team members on the Operation Care International website. www.operationcareinternational.org 
Select "Adopt a Vet" under the Volunteer Sign Up tab. 

Take action! STAND DOWN 

We might have been one of the last (and the least) in the Veterans Day Parade, but He promises us a "Front and Center" position of honor when He returns.

Serving those who Served
Charlynn


*Sunshine After Rain Ministry is a 501c3 organization. All donations are considered tax deductible by the Internal Revenue Service 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Why I Thank God for Facebook

"Then they too will answer, Lord, when did we see you..." Matthew 25:44-45

I'm disturbed, and I don't think its the result of being iced and snowed in for almost an entire week.

I was browsing through Facebook posts, looking at all the "snow" week photos, laughing at ridiculous animal videos, and pausing for prayer when I noted a friend's request for sickness or issues. I thank God a lot for Facebook - and it isn't because of all the animal dancing, or even because I can "keep track" of my global friends, or cyber-stalk celebrities whose lives fascinate me.

I thank God for Facebook because it frequently challenges me to consider the way I think about "Friends" and the way I think about all those "others." We are living in an age of technology where a riot in Mumbai, can be seen by a kid in Mayberry in REAL TIME! With the prevalence of cell phone videos and photos, we have unlimited images, from countless angles of whatever the crowd finds captivating.

It can be a singer (Madonna) falling from a stage, or a massive 15 car wreck on the frozen freeway shot from another vehicle navigating through the pile-up. It's a good thing and it's a bad thing, both in so many ways. It gives a lot of people a "voice" that never had one. Geeks and gurus have a platform, that if well manipulated and distributed, can make an idiot turning flips off a child's swing, finance their education through You Tube ads.
"America's Funniest Home Videos" established a cultural norm where it's okay to laugh at grandma setting her hair on fire at the family BBQ, and what the heck - that prize money makes the embarrassment of Uncle Billy's butt crack worth a trip to the stage for our fifteen minutes of fame.

All those 1 minute 45 second snippets of humor come in handy to alleviate the boredom of bad weather days and lonely late nights.

Because of the trillions of images we see, and 140 character messages (Twitter) we read, we become desensitized to the BIG stuff that is REALLY going on in the world. The images of Christians in cages being paraded through streets in a distant land is just that - a distant land, a distant problem, a distant people. And anyway, the next post had that recipe for pound cake I've been meaning to try.

My In-laws were Polish immigrants. My father-in-Law's family had been part of the aristocracy of Europe before the World War II. Their vast estates were confiscated and used as Nazi headquarters as the battalions of German forces marched across borders. His father was considered a threat to the state and imprisoned in Auschwitz. He survived the death camp where over 1 MILLION people were murdered.

My mother-in-law's father and mother were both in concentration camps as well. Her family had a rich legacy of influencing centuries of Polish politics and economy. Their names are recorded in the nation's history books. We often talked about their experiences as teenagers growing up in such extraordinarily turbulent times. I was curious to know how could the European "nations" ignore what was happening to their Jewish neighbors and friends. During one of those conversations, I got an unexpected answer. "Of course we heard "rumors" about these "Nazi's," we assumed they were just common thugs. After all, the Germans were some of the most intellectually sophisticated people in the world. They had hundreds of years of cultural contributions in art, music, and science. Really, it couldn't be that big of an issue. The "rest" of the Germans were okay."

When I asked, "But what about the Jews? What about when they started targeting specific groups?" Again, what I heard from people who LIVED through that time, from people who considered themselves people of faith, smart people, good people, surprised me. "Charlynn, you have to understand, the Jews at that time were the "other" people. Yes, they were our neighbors and our bankers, and kind of our friends. But they had "other" ways. They had communities we didn't belong to, and weren't invited to be a part of. They had odd traditions, even foods we loved (pork) they wouldn't eat. They were strange, and they weren't like us.

And after all, what could a little band of thugs do. Most Germans were nice. If something really bad were happening in their country - all these thousands of "good" people wouldn't let a bunch of miscreants get away with too much!"

Listen, before you start responding with rebuttals or replies, I'm not coming down on the German nationals that were (or were not) part of the Nazi party and Hitler's rise to power. I'm not "picking" a side on the behalf of radicals or religious. I'm looking at Facebook, and the forum. I'm looking at me.

Years ago I watched an Academy Award nominated film, "The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl." When I searched for it on YouTube I discovered the last film she made in 2002 at the age of ONE HUNDRED! (http://youtu.be/xjgYS8uXwFk ) "Leni Riefenstahl - The Immoderation of Me." You probably have never heard of the film or the woman. But, her claim to fame isn't in that she is the oldest director in the world, or the oldest diver in the world. Her claim to fame was as Hitler's official Media consultant. In the documentary, the young Jewish filmmakers ask if she felt any remorse for crafting iconic images ("Triumph of the Will" the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg) that would make a band a thugs and their leader a cult of hate inciting a nation to genocide. She didn't. In fact, after relentless questioning in the end she said, "I'm an artist, the propaganda films were art and nothing more. How they changed culture, or history, is not my responsibility." I wonder how the "Arab Spring" and its use of Facebook made Mark Zuckerburg, feel? And now, the social media proficiency of ISIS is effectively spreading their ideology for a Caliphate across the world.

How did a band of thugs change the world in 1933? In part, with the help of the manipulation of the media.

How is a "Junior Varsity" terrorist group recruiting college graduates to BEHEAD and FILM the horror? The same way.

"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." Ecclesiastes 1:9

I thank God for Facebook.

It makes me stop "dead in the tracks" of my comfortable Sanctuary after viewing an ISIS video. My Bible is open and Jesus is answering the question of the "religious,"

"Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not give You whatever You needed?' Then He will answer them, 'I tell you the truth, just as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for Me." Matthew 25:44-45

What can we do as Americans? What can we do as Christians?

I thank God for Facebook because at the very least, it does more than entertain me and occupy my time with "Likes, Comments" and "Friends." It reminds me that complacency and disregard is dangerous.

It makes me reflective on a winter day about history, about wars, and about "others."

It inspires me to pray.

Charlynn

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Four Chair Turn

"With all this going for us, my dear friends, stand your ground. And don't hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for Him is a waste of time or effort." 1 Corinthians 15:58 The Message

It's no secret I'm a fan of The Voice. It's the "nicer" version of all the other competitive vocal contests that fill the nightly television line up. I could tell you some of the reasons I LOVE the show, but knowing who reads these miscellaneous missives of mine, I'm pretty sure you already watch every Monday and Tuesday evening on NBC!

What I will share is my favorite element of the broadcast - the "Four Chair Turn." It's like a home run when the bases are loaded, or the 50 yard touchdown pass in the last 3 seconds of the game, (I'm allowing other references for the men that may not understand).

The singer (young or old) tells their story before taking to the stage. Typically, tales of triumph and tragedy, longing for belonging, and knowing they have a "gift" to share with others. Nerves get the better of a few, but they all know this is the chance of a lifetime - to appear before four of the top artists in the world and give it all they've got.

They walk out in high heels, tennis shoes, or cowboy boots, the band begins and taking a deep breath -they SING. Belting out the song choice that identifies them as an artist, and then

One
Two
Three
Four chairs...

...turn around in amazement to witness the flower of someone's unrecognized talent come into full bloom. It's amazing, wonderful, awe-inspiring, and tear-producing. The young (or old) artist is finally validated and recognized on a televised platform. Now the power to choose (the right vocal coach) is in their hands, with all the judges vying to be the "one" that shapes this diamond in the rough.
For the past 16 months, I've been sequestered on USA soil, working to build a better way for military personnel and caregivers to find and access resources. It involved Warrior Forums in San Antonio, meetings with IT people, hundreds and hundreds of hours of data entry and tedious research, it was not fun, or fancy, or anything like reporting from some exotic foreign mission field the events of the day. But I knew without question it was the task I was charged to do by the Master. I put in the time, effort, and mental sweat (typing doesn't burn many calories).

And then...

I walked out on the figurative "stage" at the George W Bush Presidential Center!

I had my own "Four Chair Turn," of validation.

One of the initiatives of the Center is a military focused program to see returning soldiers get access to resources to assist in their transition to civilian life. Hello! That is exactly what WE have done. That "we" includes all the soldiers, caregivers and wounded warriors who have helped in countless ways. It includes friends who've personally volunteered time and talent to assist whenever they could (like serving over 700+ homeless veterans at the Operation Care Christmas event). It includes faithful supporters who have sent me to the foreign fields over the years and who kept sending support trusting God knows what He is doing. It includes those who pray for the work of the ministry and keep us keeping on! WE WILL MAKE a DIFFERENCE!

"So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith." Galatians 6:9-10 The Message

I met with the "movers and shakers" working to impact the community of returning military and their families. Everyone of those introductions was orchestrated by the One who sets my schedule and brings the Harvest! We are at the top of the first hill on the roller coaster. I've told all my "battle buddies" I'm not sure whether I should close my eyes and start screaming, or throw up my hands and have a blast! Either way - we need YOU!

Continue to cover us in prayer!! Pray for the connections we made to bear a great harvest! The enemy is gaining territory in the military community assaulting them with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness - claiming over TWENTY TWO soldiers lives EVERY DAY to suicide. WE WILL reduce that number by helping these families find the help they need.

Consider becoming a monthly supporter of our mission. Trace Adkins isn't going to sing you a song, and we don't have logo blankets to send out, but WE need you in the "armed forces" that will change the world.

Underwrite an endeavor. It currently costs $360 (a year) to operate the server for the website. Pay for the production of our "Info" cards ($300 for 10,000). We've already passed out over 15,000 cards from South Korea to Afghanistan! Our Data Expansion Initiative needs funding. We've added our first paid staff member at $1200 a month who will be traveling to Veteran Offices and VA Hospitals, speaking at various events to get the word out that WE ARE the RESOURCE for RESOURCES!

Make a contribution EVERY amount adds up to make a life-changing, hope-offering impact.
Contact us for ways YOU can be involved. We spend one day a week at the Dallas Veteran Resource Center, offering assistance to the Vets who come for services. We're running out of time - the enemy and ISIS aren't slowing down or retreating. It's time to "take the hill" of despair and plant the flag of faith firmly in the hearts minds and souls of those who have paid so much for our freedom!

"God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them." Hebrews 6:10

Onward Christian Soldiers!
Charlynn

To set up monthly recurring donations or to make a one time gift by credit card visit our website*:
www.sunshineafterrain.org

or by post:
Sunshine After Rain
10024 Regal Park Lane
Suite 217
Dallas TX 75230

Spread the word in YOUR military community! Request some "INFO" cards to take to your local VSO, VFW, and VA centers. Tell your military friends about us.

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*Sunshine After Rain is a 501 c3, donations are considered tax deductible by the Internal Revenue Service. Battle-Buddy.Info is the "military initiative" of the ministry