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A conversation I will not forget: Reflecting on Memorial Day in a pandemic

Dr. Jim Denison is the CEO of Denison Forum.
His Daily Article and podcast globally reach over 160,000 subscribers. Dr. Denison guides readers to discern today’s news—biblically. He is the author of multiple books and has taught on the philosophy of religion and apologetics at several seminaries. Prior to launching Denison Forum in 2009, he pastored churches in Texas and Georgia. He holds a Ph.D and a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jim and his wife, Janet, live in Dallas, Texas. They have two sons and four grandchildren.

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Reflecting on Memorial Day in a pandemic
(Stock photo)

Today is Memorial Day, an observance held annually in the United States on the last Monday in May. On this day, we especially remember the more than 1.3 million Americans who have died in our nation’s wars.

As the son and grandson of soldiers and a proud and grateful American, I want to honor this day each year in the Daily Article and each day in my heart. 

However, there is a companion theme on this Memorial Day I’d like us to consider as well. 

A nurse with tears in her eyes 

I had minor outpatient surgery last week. I say that only to say that I interacted with several medical staff in the days leading up to and through the procedure. Each of them was wearing a mask and gloves; several were wearing protective gowns as well. 

That’s because, so far as they knew, I was infected with COVID-19 and capable of spreading the infection to them. 

One nurse with whom I spoke had an especially touching story. When she and her colleagues were cleared to return to work several weeks ago, her daughter moved out of their home. This daughter has been living with her older brother because her mother could become infected with SARS-CoV-2 at work and bring the infection home to her. 

As a result, this nurse has not been in the physical presence of her daughter for two months. They speak over Skype or Zoom every day, but it’s not the same. I will not forget her or the tears in her eyes as she told me her story. 

Thousands of healthcare workers have been infected with COVID-19 so far. Add to them the multiplied thousands of people working in other frontline capacities during this pandemic, from those who deliver groceries and supplies to those who police our streets to keep us safe. 

Each of them is risking their life and their family to serve us. 

How best can we observe this Memorial Day during a pandemic? Consider three biblical priorities. 

One: Remember 

Paul said of the Philippians, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you” (Philippians 1:3). Like him, we should remember those we are honoring today and express gratitude to God for them and their families. 

Take time today to think about the 1.3 million women and men who have died to protect the freedoms you enjoy. Envision their lives and sacrifice; consider the years they lost in serving our nation. If you know a member of their families, express your gratitude to them for the sacrifice their loved ones made for you. 

I especially encourage you to participate in the National Moment of Remembrance by stopping at 3:00 p.m. local time for one minute of silence. If you know a veteran or current member of the military, find a way to express your gratitude to them as well. 

Extend this commitment to the healthcare providers and other frontline workers you know. Find a way to express your gratitude today and every day. 

Two: Pray 

Paul said of the Ephesians, “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:16). As he prayed for them, we should pray for those we are considering today. 

Pray for our military and their families, asking God for their protection and encouragement. Pray for those who have lost loved ones in the service of our country, asking God for their strength and peace. 

And pray for our healthcare workers and others on the frontlines of this pandemic. Ask God to keep them and their families safe. Pray for them to feel the encouragement and gratitude of our nation. 

Three: Emulate 

Think of the millions of women and men who chose to serve our nation at the cost of their lives. Consider their families living with the pain of their loss. Think about the women and men serving in harm’s way around the world, willing to die that we might live. And consider the healthcare providers and other frontline workers who are serving us at risk to themselves and those they love. 

You and I may not be called into their service, but we have our own kingdom assignments. With our calling comes a commitment to fulfill that calling at any cost. Those God uses most fully are those who are most fully surrendered to his use. 

Scripture teaches, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23). Paradoxically, this is the best way to serve the Lord and men. 

The path to “true happiness” 

Remember, then pray, then emulate. 

Helen Keller noted: “True happiness is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”

What “worthy purpose” will you serve with your life?

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