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It seems every time I drive from point A to point B these days, I see more "ribbon decals" on cars, bearing the words "Remember our troops." Yet despite these widespread reminders, and despite the high profile of the war in Iraq during the presidential election just completed, I fear we are becoming inured to its events and are forgetful of its combatants. As war drags on and each day more distant, sterile statistics trickle in through the media, are we really keeping our troops in Iraq and elsewhere in our thoughts and prayers?

Nov. 11 provides one opportunity—one "nudge" to rededicate ourselves to pray in this direction.

In 1926 Congress instituted "Armistice Day," to be observed each Nov. 11 as a commemoration of the armistice that ended "the Great War" (World War I) and a day to both thank God for the sacrifice of those who fought and pray for world peace. Then in 1954, after World War II and the Korean conflict, the day was refocused to honor the service and sacrifice of the American veterans of all wars. As we remember the veterans, I believe it is appropriate to include those who currently serve in our thoughts and prayers as well.

There are of course as many ways to lift up our troops as there are soldiers. But I want to suggest one appropriate way for Christians to pray for our troops abroad this year. It has to do with God's mysterious purposes in the most terrible of conflicts.

As C. S. Lewis's fictional junior demon "Screwtape" so famously discovered, though war is clearly an instrument of hell, yet God can and does turn it to the purposes of heaven. Lewis's colleague J. R. R. Tolkien put it like this: "All we do know, ...

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November 2004

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