The Heroes of Our Lives
Heroes come in many sizes and shapes, but they all hold a common thread, a greater love for others than themselves. Heroes usually act in the moment and without thought to their actions. Most heroes, if they survive, usually report that they just did what had to be done, nothing more and nothing less.
We are surrounded by many heroes, some of which never reach the headlines, but others that do. Perhaps you remember, Victoria Soto, the young teacher from the Sandy Hook tragedy? The reports sayÂ that her lifelong dream was to become a teacher. She spent her last moments on earth protecting the human objects of her dream, as she gathered her class into a closet to protect them. As the gunman entered her classroom and began to fire his weapon, she took her own body and placed it between the bullets and her students. She is a hero, recognized by acting in the moment, and with only one thought in her mind, to protect others more than herself, no greater love.
A lesser headline, but still a story that made the news, is the one of Ray Blankenship. Ray was preparing his breakfast someÂ years ago, one summer, when he looked out his window and saw a young girl, being swiftly carried away in a rain-flooded drainage ditch next to his Andover, Ohio, home.
He knew that down the stream a bit further, the ditch would disappear underneath a road and then would empty out into a larger main culvert. Ray, without giving thought, rushed out his door, and ran along the ditch, attempting to get ahead of the young girl, who was struggling to stay above the water. He finally flung himself into the swirling and tumbling water grabbing the child’s arm. The water then quickly took them both, flipping them along together. When they reached about a yard from the culvert, Ray felt something sticking out of the bank; he thought it was a rock. He held tightly, fighting the great force of the water as it continuously tried to rip him and the child away. He thought that if he could just hold on until help arrived, he could save the child. However, he did better than that, as by the time the emergency personal arrived, Ray had pulled the girl to safety. They were both treated for shock.
The Coast Guard awarded Ray Blankenship, the Silver Lifesaving Medal. This hero is even greater than most people know. He certainly put himself at a greater risk, for a greater love, because Ray Blankenship cannot swim.
This weekend, we look to the heroes of our country in the United States. On Monday, we pause and honor the heroes of the military that gave their life or their lifestyle, to protect the freedoms and privileges we are given, to live in this land. The heroes celebrated on Memorial Day, encompass those people serving our country through the valor of the armed forces. Typically, in the past, we appeared to remember the greater wars of I and II and their heroes, but as time as passed, those serving in the Korean, Vietnam, and the Gulf Wars are also given to recognition. These people are no longer overshadowed by the bigger events even though some of the situations were not popular with the citizens during the time they served. The last round and latest heroes are now added into this mix warranting our attention, as we add the military heroes, from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Such is the case of Specialist Ross A. McGinnis, a hero from Pennsylvania, in an act of greater love, while on duty in Iraq. The specialist was on patrol with a convoy, performing his job as manning the .50 caliber machine gun on his Humvee. Reports sayÂ that aÂ fragmented piece of a grenade landedÂ into the vehicle, during a surprise attack, on a narrow side street. McGinnis, according to the official report yelled to the others, ”Grenade” and attempted to deflect it, but the explosive made it inside the vehicle anyway.
The Specialist faced a sudden moment of greater love, he had a choice. Since he was sitting in the turret on top of the vehicle, he could have jumpedÂ free before the explosion. Instead, he turned into a hero of gigantic proportions, as he pressed his back over the grenade, to shield his fellow soldiers. When the grenade exploded, his body absorbed the deadly blast, saving the lives of every soldier in the vehicle.
Sergeant First Class Cedric Thomas, a soldier in the Humvee, reported that none of the soldiers had any chance to escape the vehicle. There were doors that were combat locked and others that were too heavy to quickly make an exit. The soldiers heard McGinnis’ warning in the intercom and then heard only the sound of his breathing through his open mic. Thomas further reported that he saw the specialist stand up, sit down, and then lean over the grenade.
Hero, Specialist Ross A. McGinnis received the nation’s highest military decoration; the Congressional Medal of Honor. He is only one of four soldiers to receive this decoration for bravery under fire in Iraq.
Heroes give a sacrifice; they have a greater love for others than themselves. This is the connection between them all and there are countless stories from the everyday citizen to the valor and honor of the military. Heroes act in the given moment of crisis; they see a sudden need of others, and then act upon it. They most often put their life at risk, and at times they give up their lives, so others may have it. Heroes follow the instruction and example of Christ. This week our focus verse is about the greater love and sacrifice of the willingness to lay down your life for another.
This verse is the words of Christ spoken to the disciples as He instructs them on how important love is to everyone. Jesus not only instructs this through words, but gives the ultimate example by willingly dying for us. The difference though, between the human heroes we hear about, and Christ, is that Christ’s decision was not made in a moment; it was not a quick or rash decision. Christ went slowly to death, fully aware of the event that preceded it, and the process that would occur before He gave His life. Â He did this all, because He loves us that much. He could have stopped it, as it was in His power, but he chose not to. He did all of this for love, the greatest love, gives a fully known and complete sacrifice.
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13 (NLT)
The ZEAL of Heroes
Jesus wants us to understand His sacrifice for us, and in turn not only honor His sacrifice, but honor others by showing them every day His example of love. We must be like the good Shepherd, watching out and over others. How we treat others matters. Heroes do not weigh the odds, or calculate the benefits to their selves. Because heroes, in the words of the athletic conglomerate, Nike; ”Just do it!” Â When we love others as Christ loves us, we honor Him, and we set His example in place. Christ does not require we give up our physical life for others, Nor does He ask us to suffer for or at the sake of others. The sacrifice does however; require us to think beyond ourselves, and our own little world. Heroes give beyond and outside of their personal relationships, just like Christ.
You too, can be part of the force of heroes in life, by practicing sacrificial love. There are actions to practice daily with others that show a greater love, without giving your own life. You can do this with ZEAL.
Z. –Zany acts of simplyÂ helping others. The most basic act of sacrifice you can do is simply to help others. Help others in every day acts, working side by side, help others through volunteer organizations; like food pantries, clothing centers, or housing that help provide basic needs. Help others through financial means, to gain the necessary things needed in life to survive. By helping others, even with small tasks, ordinary people can turn into giant heroes of help.
E.-Encouragement moves everyone forward. When you encourage others on a daily basis, you show tremendous love through support. The encouraging of others isÂ probably the easiest thing you can do that takes so little effort. A text message to let someone know you are praying for them pushes you quietly into the fame of heroes. Letting someone know you are in support of them or what they are doing promotes and fosters a love for other people. Everyone wants to know that others are behind them, remember them, and care about them. Let your encouragement of others soar through simple words verbally or written, letting others know you care about them.
A. –Active giving always shows a greater love. Active giving means more than just writing a check or dropping some cash into the bucket. When you actively give, you give up your time, energy, and self. These are the things you cannot take back, make more of, or re-do. Active giving often means active and tremendous sacrifice, showing a greater love for others.
L. –Listening, shows active love. This step can be a difficult one because it requires you to slow down and give personal and upfront attention. It requires the very precious commodity of time. Listening requires pre-planning or the ability to change personal plans suddenly. It is the step that encompasses all the other steps, because with the action of listening you are not just hearing, but helping, giving, and encouraging. Listening can often save lives.
When you use and act upon the ZEAL of heroes you challenge yourself to think of others before yourself. Your motivation is to be more like Christ and set the example He has set for us, which comes from the greatest love we will ever know; the love Christ gives us.
The story goes that she was lying on the ground and in her arms, she held a tiny baby girl. The man placed a cooked sweet potato in her stretched out hand, while wondering if she would live until the morning. Her strength seemed almost gone, but her exhausted eyes appeared to acknowledge the gift. The potato was all he had to give.
She took a bite and chewed it carefully, and then placed her mouth over her baby’s mouth; she forced the warm, soft, food into the tiny throat. Although the mother was starving, she used the entire potato to keep her baby alive. She was finally exhausted by her effort, dropped her head to the ground, and closed her eyes. In a few minutes, the baby was asleep. During the night the mother’s heart stopped, but her little girl lived.
A greater love is seen once again, a sacrifice given for another, heroes give it all. Giving it all for those we love is easy, giving it all for those we like; a bit harder, giving it all for those we think do not deserve it, is nearly impossible. Christ gave it all for us, the greatest love, for the undeserving. It is for us now, to give back giving it all to make the Savior’s love known to others, becoming a member of the heroes of life in whatever way we can offer. We must always remember that Christ loves us so much, that He willingly and knowingly gave His life for us not in a moment’s decision, but with the full knowledge of what was to come.
Memorial Day, we celebrate the heroes who have sacrificed a greater love for others through action. They follow the clear encouragement of the Apostle Paul, in Philippians 4:8; ”…Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Heroes pay ultimate dues and are worthy of praise, but in the end, we each must ask ourselves who we will stand before; Jesus or our nation.
Sacrifice the greatest love for the one who sacrificed the greatest for you.
Happy Memorial Day! We salute all those who have served in our armed forces with or without headlines.
Love in Christ,
137 years later, Memorial Day remains one of America’s most cherished patriotic observances. The spirit of this day has not changed – it remains a day to honor those who died defending our freedom and democracy.
Approximately 1,982 years later, Pentecost remains one of the World’s most cherished observances. The spirit of this day will never change – it remains a day to honor the one and only Christ, who died defending our freedom from sin, and to instill why it is important, to continue to tell the story to others.
Credits: Victoria Soto http://www.newstimes.com/local/article/Teacher-from-Stratford-shielded-students-4120759.php; Ray Blankenship - Paul Harvey, Los Angeles Times Syndicate;Â Iraq War Medal of Honor Recipients http://www.history.army.mil/html/moh/iraq.html; Mother and Baby ”“ Dick Hills, Love is a Costly Thing
What are your thoughts? Join Us in Discussion
Do you celebrate the heroes of modern-day? Do you celebrate the unsung heroes of wars as they fought to give us the freedoms we have? Have you recognized Christ’s sacrifice because of His greater love to you? Can you use ZEAL to give greater love to others showing the greatest love of Christ? Are you part of the heroes showing greater love to the world? Join us in discussion on the sacrifice of heroes, as we pay tribute to the greatest sacrifice of all, Christ’s act of love.