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I am writing today from Israel, where the nation is celebrating her sixty-ninth birthday. Independence Day in this land is an amazing experience. On Monday, Israelis completed their annual Memorial Day, a solemn tradition dedicated to their fallen soldiers and civilian victims of terrorism. They are following it today with a nationwide celebration of their independence.
There will be parades, air shows, family barbecues, and speeches. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted that the first Independence Day “was a moment of triumph for our people. We had been scattered around the world for millennia. And then we returned to our native homeland, to build a safe haven where we could live and thrive.
“Now, many doubted that this tiny State of Israel would survive. We were surrounded by hostile enemies who attacked us again and again. So perhaps, for some, this skepticism was warranted. But survive we did. Much more than that. We thrived.”
The people of Israel have indeed thrived. It’s been a year since I’ve been here. In that time, the Mediterranean Sea beachfront in Tel Aviv where we are staying has continued to expand. There are new recreational areas, restaurants, and sidewalks. Skyscrapers dot the horizon. The people of Israel are remarkably industrious and courageous. They embrace life in the knowledge that the future is guaranteed to no one. And they’re right.
Last Thursday evening, Janet and I were privileged to attend the tenth-anniversary celebration for Orphan Outreach, an outstanding ministry we are grateful to support. The featured speaker was former First Lady Laura Bush. We were honored to meet her beforehand; she was so very gracious and kind. Her remarks on behalf of orphans and the disadvantaged were truly inspirational.
Reflecting on 9/11 and all she and her husband experienced in the White House, Mrs. Bush made this simple but powerful statement: “All we know we have is now.” Israelis would agree.
It is so typical of their culture for the nation to couple Memorial Day with Independence Day. While things are much quieter now, there have been bus bombings and other acts of terror over the years. Each time, the authorities acted immediately to return the scene to normalcy so life could go on. Israelis mourn their dead deeply, but they know that the best way to honor their memory is to embrace life fully.
The best way to live this day is to surrender it to the will and purpose of our Father. Trusting the past to his forgiving grace and the future to his providential purpose, we are then free to focus on the only day we know we have.
Before he met Jesus on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, what would Peter’s great ambition for his life have been? Could he have imagined that he would lead the early Christian movement and write letters that will live forever in the word of God?
Before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, what would Saul of Tarsus’s great ambition for his life have been? Could he have imagined that he would lead the global Christian movement and write half the New Testament?
However great our aspirations, God’s best is always better.
David invited us to “taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8). Will you be blessed today?