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Exporting Morale: A Lesson from North Platte

9 Sep

The following humorous story is reportedly true, shared by a man on his way to war:

“During the Persian Gulf War, I was assigned to go to Saudi Arabia. As I was saying good-bye to my family, my three-year-old son, Christopher, was holding on to my leg and pleading with me not to leave. ‘No, Daddy, please don’t go!’ he kept repeating.

“We were beginning to make a scene when my wife, desperate to calm him, said, ‘Let Daddy go and I’ll take you to get a pizza.’

“Immediately, Christopher loosened his death grip, stepped back and in a calm voice said, ‘Bye, Daddy.'” *

Although that story is sweet and funny, war isn’t. It never is. Yet we still can find moments of light in terrible  darkness, and reasons for hope.

My husband’s mother recently sent me a video about the North Platte Canteen in Nebraska. I’d never heard about this special place.

According to a site detailing the story, the North Platte Canteen encouraged more than six million servicemen and women who traveled through Nebraska via train during World War II. Volunteers, led by Rae Wilson, prepared and served sandwiches, coffee, cookies, cakes, and other homemade goodies during quick troop stops there.

A similar canteen operated during World War I ~ an operation associated with the American Red Cross for 18 months in the Union Pacific freight house in North Platte ~ serving about 113,190 men. Many of these “Sammy Girls” served in the 1940s canteen as well.

Many other smaller canteens operated in Omaha, Norfolk, and McCook (where troop trains also paused), but the North Platte Canteen was a dramatic, patriotic outpouring of regular American citizens to give encouragement and sustenance to US troops on their way to war.

(Rae Wilson, left, organizer of the North Butte Canteen. Photo, Lincoln County Historical Museum)

Rae Wilson (age 26), wrote a letter to the North Platte Bulletin, sparking interest for her idea to give small gifts and snacks to soldiers traveling through North Platte on Christmas Day, 1941. Wilson organized a canteen committee a few days before the soldiers arrived.

In time, the volunteers provided simple entertainment (a donated piano, jukebox, and radio), a magazine table, birthday celebrations for soldiers who passed through on their birthday, platform girls (on the train station platform with baskets of food) and words of encouragement to the troops. Years later, soldiers who survived the war wrote back expressing thanks to the volunteers. Memories of their stop in North Butte encouraged them during battle, and lingered long after the war.

(Rae Wilson gives men a happy send-off. Photo from Lincoln County Historical Museum.)

What struck me in reading this story was some words by Rae Wilson said. “North Platte hasn’t any big war industries,” she said. “I guess you could say we’ve started our own ~ exporting morale.

I like that. Exporting morale. Boy, could we use more of that in the Body of Christ as we fight the battle against the unseen enemy and for our Lord. The Bible says we are to “encourage one another” (Hebrews 3:13) and to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).

How can I export morale? How can I encourage those new Christian “recruits” ~ born again and  just beginning to fight? How can I bless and motivate battle-weary saints?

These are questions we all might ask.

Rae Wilson’s vision motivated people to help her bless millions. I keep thinking, “Lord, I’ll be content to sit at my desk and encourage others through writing; but is there something more you would have me do?” I think it’s a question we all need to ask.

Let me hear from you. How can we “export morale” in the church today?

* From AhaJokes.com, http://www.ahajokes.com/war024.html

For more about the North Platte Canteen, click on the “A Pictoral History” at http://npcanteen.net

– Dawn

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Be a ‘Happy to Do It’ Christian

15 Jul

Ever ponder some of these serious questions in life?

  • If a man speaks in the forest and there’s no woman to hear him, is he still wrong?
  • If a parsley farmer is sued, do they garnish his wages?
  • Do fish get cramps after eating?
  • What do little birdies see when they get knocked unconscious?
  • If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?

OK… those aren’t so serious. But one of the questions Randy Draper asks in his book,* Happy to Do It: Get Your ‘Snap’ On! IS serious … a basic attitude check.

He asks, “Will you have an attitude of service today, or will this day be an ‘all about me’ day?”

“Every day, either consciously or otherwise, each of us is faced with the opportunity to either be ‘Happy to Do It’ or ‘Hacked to Do It,'” Draper wrote.

The spirit of living sacrificially for others, he said, can be summed up in four simple words ~ Happy to do it! ~ and it’s a perspective that can be developed. We can condition ourselves to have a serving “Happy to do it” attitude as simply as developing an attitude of gratitude or forgiving others. It’s all about making the serving choice and conditioning ourselves to have a new habit.

Draper says he likes to snap his fingers when he says “Happy to do it” to someone’s request, “because it mentally ‘snaps’ me into this conditioned mindset.”

“Not only will you serve with gladness,” he said, “but soon you’ll also get to the point where you don’t’ even realize you’re doing it! What’s more, you’ll actually begin to look for opportunities to live out Christ before others.”

Attitudes shape us, and this kind of serving with joy attitude wells up from within, not dependent upon circumstances or how others respond. “Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever your circumstances ~ attitude is everything,” Draper said. He echoes the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:4 and 11-14, and again in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

“This rejoicing mindset has got to be the default, not the attitude of convenience,” Draper said.

Scriptures like these challenge us to stay positive when it’s easier to enjoy a pity party or when we’re asked to do the tough stuff … to serve when it’s unpleasant or hard. And they remind us to trust God and be thankful in all circumstances ~ a sure cure for worry.

“Think of these three attitudes ~ the ‘rejoice regardless’ attitude the worry-free attitude, and the attitude of service ~ as a kind of trifecta of living like the Lord, Draper says. “Don’t expect to wake up tomorrow and have them all mastered. It’s a day-by-day thing, kind of like exercise…. Keep your eyes on the Lord and your heart before God and the attitudes will come in their right time.”

I have to admit that sometimes I don’t serve with a happy face. And an unhappy face comes from an unhappy heart that hasn’t fully learned to be content and joyful in service. Maybe I need to “snap” to it! How about you?

Do you struggle with a “Happy to Do It!” serving attitude? How have you learned to serve with joy?

* quotations from Randy Draper, Happy to Do It: Get Your ‘Snap’ On! (HeartSpring Media, 2012)

No Gift Quite Like Yours

17 Oct

It’s always to good to know where our gifts and talents lie.

Sugar Ray LeonardSugar Ray Leonard once spoke at Harvard. The amiable boxer said:

“I consider myself blessed. I consider you blessed. We’ve all been blessed with God-given talents.

“Mine just happens to be beatin’ people up!” (1)

Victor Borge at PianoPianist Victor Borge was once asked if he played any other musical instruments.

Borge answered, “Well, yes. I have another piano.” (2)

Both of these men were talking about talents more than spiritual gifts. Talents are wonderful, but your God-given spiritual gift will bring you the greatest blessing, if you use it ~ if you “bloom where you’re planted.” It is what makes you unique. It can also bring you favor with others, and increased success in life.

The Holy Spirit decides what spiritual gifts we should have (1 Corinthians 12:4-6), but spiritual gifts are not all about you. As Adrian Rogers said, your spiritual gift “is not for your enjoyment; it is for your employment.” There’s a reason you have it that is far bigger than you.

Spiritual Gifts GraphicSometimes as we discover our spiritual gifts and use the talents God has allowed us to develop, we focus on the benefits to our own lives, and that is OK … but it’s much better to focus on the JOY model ~ Jesus, Others, You.

First, we glorify God as we use the gifts He created in us. A better way to say this is, we display His creative glory through us. We have differing gifts according to the “grace given us” (Romans 12:6-8), and we reflect His image as the all-wise Creator. Our gifts aren’t a matter for pride, but for humility before God. It is His power working in us to properly use our gifts. We’re not to “size each other up” or compare ourselves with others.

I (Dawn) remember when I was in Bible college. I took an apologetics class, and I thrived there. The professor told me privately, “Dawn, you’ve got a better grasp on this than most of the guys in this class.” I remember my heart swelling with pride, and from then on until the end of the semester, I “noticed” when I outshone my male counterparts in the class. Yet I failed to understand that God was using all of us in different ways in that class, related to our gifts. 

For instance, I tended to shine in apologetics because my spiritual gift is teaching ~ and boy, could I spout facts and “truths” in debates. But one mercy-showing male classmate used what he learned in the class to reach out to others on the streets of Pennsylvania with the truth. Another used doctrines he learned to gently disciple a dorm-mate, a new believer. Was my gift superior to theirs? No, but in my comparisons, I missed how we ALL were glorifying God!

We need to thank God, the sovereign giver of gifts (Ecclesiastes 2:26a) for giving gifts to different degrees and for different purposes (1 Corinthians 12:18), rather than comparing ourselves with others (1 Corinthians 15:10). He gives a diversity of gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4), but for one purpose ~ to bring Him glory. Like the different instruments Continue reading

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