Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (Romans 13:7)

Have you ever been in a hurry to get your errands done, so you run into the store with a single focus?

You don’t have time for idle chitchat or making new friends –it’s a get in, get out moment. Only to be interrupted by someone or something?

You have experienced it too, haven’t you?

It was a Tuesday afternoon a few weeks ago. I was getting ready to leave town for a two week trip. I had my list of things to do and items that I needed to buy. I don’t know why I saved so many things until the last minute, but hey, I did.

Armed with my list of items to buy for a church event I had a plan – make the rounds as quickly as possible and get back home to pack, and then leave for the airport.

Did I mention I had a plan?

Yes, I had a plan, and it was to get in and out with the focus and efficiency of a Special Forces reconnaissance team.

Well, it seemed that God had other plans for me that day. Last week, I shared about how I kept finding myself drawn to everything red, white and blue, thinking it was just because our nation’s birthday was fast approaching. However, it was a moment where I almost missed God speaking to me.

Here it is again, a moment when I almost missed out on a divine encounter that day. Here’s how it went down:

I ran into the store to get the last few items I needed, and then I was headed home. There’s no time to browse and look around – stick to the list Debbie – just stick to the list.

As I entered the store an elderly gentlemen caught my attention – let’s call him “Frank”. He was getting ready to leave the store and was talking rather loud to the cashier (not yelling – simply loud – I assume because he was hard of hearing). He had lost his cane and needed it. I watched this interaction as I was heading to the aisle that I knew the items were in.

As I was busy throwing things in my cart and checking them off my list, Frank came around the corner and began talking to me. I really didn’t have time for this, but I was taught to respect my elders, so I just smiled and nodded my head at the things he was saying, only half listening – something about a hero, and he would be lost without his cane these days. In an effort to be respectful and move on, I said, “Well, it’s a good thing you found your cane then. Have a great day.”

He said, “You know, I’m a hero.”

“No, sir,” I said, “I didn’t know you were a hero. Why are you a hero?” In the back of my mind, I was hoping his story would be quick, if not I would have to figure out how to nicely remove myself from conversation.

At that very moment, when my mind began to formulate a plan of escape, I heard the gentle prompting of the Lord to listen and pay attention. Ok, I took a deep breath, so maybe, this wasn’t going to be a quick in, quick out moment after all.

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“Frank” was delighted, almost beside himself excited that I asked the simple question, “Why are you a hero?”

He started from the beginning, well not literally, but I could tell this wasn’t going to be the reader’s digest version. However, this time I was paying close attention to what He was saying. After all, God had told me to.

Here is “Frank’s” story:

“I was a mustang pilot back in the war under Harry S Truman.  You don’t know what a mustang plane is do you?

“Yes,” I said, “it’s a bomber plane right?” (Truth be told, I didn’t know exactly what it looked like or how many people it could hold, but hey, I knew it was a bomber.)

He nodded his head and continued.

I was just a young man back then. I was stationed in San Diego, and when my unit came in from our flight that day, we were all called into a hanger. I was the first to land, and therefore, the first to arrive. As I walked, in a general stood behind the podium, and there were 15 chairs sitting in front of him.

“Do you know why there were 15 chairs?” he asked me.

“Nope, I have no idea,” I replied.

He continued with his story, because there were 15 pilots in our unit. I knew immediately we were about to be given an important mission. The general was there to give us our orders, but do you know what he said? He said, that we were being sent on a top secret mission. A mission no one else would know about except a select group of people, but it was important.

The General said he couldn’t give us the complete details of our mission until we were in the air and half way across the ocean. Immediately our mustang plans were loaded on an aircraft carrier and we left. Once in the air and well into our mission, we were told our mission was to run interference for MacArthur, so that they could make it out from behind enemy lines. We were also told if we went down, we were on our own. Over the radio the general asked if we understood what he was saying. I replied for all of us and said, “Yes, sir, this is a suicide mission, either we make it or we don’t”

That day we went up against the MIG Russian fighters, out of the 15 pilots only 2 of us returned. Just my wing-man and I made it back and no one knew we were heroes until much later.”

When “Frank” finished, I thanked him for sharing his story with me and for being a hero. I told him I was honored to hear his story, and I hoped he had a nice day. “Frank” left right after that as I went back to finishing my list. I was still thinking about my encounter with Frank when I was checking out. I noticed the lady behind me was purchasing a lot of balloon weights to hold helium balloons down from flying away. I turned to her and joked with the cashier, “Hey, it looks like she’s having a party, maybe we should crash her party.”

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The lady said, “oh, it’s not the party you think it is. My son and I are going to the cemetery to clean graves off and decorate them close to the 4th of July. You see, when we go to visit our family buried there, there are some graves that are neglected and need to be cared for.”

I looked her right in the eye and said, “THANK YOU! Thank you for honoring those who have gone before, thank you for caring enough to do such a kind act for those you never knew.”

She stared right back at me with a look of bewilderment on her face, she said no one had ever thanked her for doing something like that, it was just the right thing to do, but me thanking her, touched her and made her feel good.

I wish I could tell you the rest of “Franks” story, like what his real name was, I forgot to ask in my haste to want to leave. I wish I could tell you which war he fought in, WWII or the Korean War. I wish I would have asked if he had children, a wife, and more. I wish I had taken more time with him, listened more, it was the least I could do.

Take time, slow down, don’t miss out on God appointed opportunities to love and honor others God brings across your path every day. Don’t let your plans get in the way of Gods plans for you.

Honor is such a powerful commodity and a simple thing to give.  As we go into this holiday weekend, may we honor the men and women who have gone before us and fought for the freedoms we have today. May we also honor those who serve or have served in our military forces and those who serve in government. Finally, and most importantly, honor the King of Kings, Jesus Christ. He is the King of Glory, who paid the ultimate price, so that you and I can live and have our freedom!

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