I pray daily for our son and the men under his command in Iraq. I pray for their safety, and I pray for the safety of Iraqis too. I pray that Iraq can find stability and reconstruction and that coalition forces can exit from there in a safe and orderly manner.
Sometimes the news from Iraq and the task of democracy-building present challenges that seem overwhelming. But when I remember to take things one step at a time, I begin with the focus at hand - my son and his command. It gives me a starting point for my prayers.
Our son is praying daily as well. We have frequent e-mail contact about the insights we've gained from this common focus, and we're both learning more about God's care every day.
Our son's younger brother and sister, along with my wife, find inspiring biblical passages, write them down on cards, and send them to him every week. We are all gaining from this spiritual research, and we are grateful that all remain safe.
For many years, during times of trouble at home and abroad, I have found another book to be very helpful too, and that's "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this newspaper. Her book is loaded with statements of demonstrable, practical spirituality, and it has helped me understand the Bible better through a deeper understanding of God.
Not long ago, while praying, I reached for Science and Health, and I intuitively turned to a page where I found a chapter in which the author presented spiritual interpretations of common terms used in the Bible. The term I was looking at was "Zion," and, in part, the passage reads as follows: "Spiritual foundation and superstructure; inspiration; spiritual strength" (page 599).
Immediately I felt that there was a specific application of this insight for our situation, but I wasn't sure what it was.
Our son is a military policeman, and he and his men - and others in the same profession - are often the target of the Iraqi insurgents. He is deeply concerned with force protection, securing his perimeter, and ensuring that he and his men (there are no women in his group at present) are safe.
As I pondered that passage from Science and Health, I began to see how it applied to the situation in which our son finds himself in Iraq.
I saw that Zion, as it was described here, is not just a place in biblical Palestine, but an indication of a state of thought that accepts spiritual foundation and superstructure. It provides both a solid base and extended force protection in one idea. It provides security from below as well as from above. It's portable because it is carried in individual thought - mine and our son's. It symbolizes spiritual strength, which is beyond armor plating, beyond sandbags. Its perimeter is infinite.
Nothing can get in that would destroy or disorganize. Because it is spiritual inspiration, it does not depend on personal charisma to be effective or equipment distribution to be installed. It doesn't have to be cranked up. It doesn't wear out; it renews every morning, and it covers the whole ground - coalition forces, Iraqi citizens, even the insurgents. Nobody is shut out from this divine protection.
This brought me a sense of peace. My fear lessened. While the news continued to report acts of violence, I arrived at an understanding that all involved could be safe.
The concept of the protection of Zion expanded for me, to include people and activities in my daily life as well - commuters going into the city, employees concerned with sudden changes in management, our other kids at a new school.
I know that my son and his unit in Iraq go out on their missions and return, protected from harm, misunderstanding, or miscalculation. And I can share in establishing that protection for myself and all humanity.
The Lord is my strength
and my shield; my heart trusted
in him, and I am helped.