❝3 For my days are consumed like smoke,
And my bones are burned like a hearth.
4 My heart is stricken and withered like grass,
So that I forget to eat my bread.
5 Because of the sound of my groaning
My bones cling to my skin.
6 I am like a pelican of the wilderness;
I am like an owl of the desert.
7 I lie awake,
And am like a sparrow alone on the housetop.❞
Reflection by Alan Peaslee
In April of 2005, I assumed command of my Air National Guard Medical Group. I was selected for command earlier than expected, but I had two highly experienced NCO’s who would see me through the transition. Chief Master Sargent Sudduth and our beloved 1st Sargent Moses Haynes who was regarded, and has been publicly recognized, as the best first Sargent in the Georgia Air National Guard. Both of these men has been in the unit, in those positions, for more than 8 years, so my commander and I had every confidence we were set.
Six weeks later as we gathered following the Sunday Eucharist, my military cell phone rang, rarely a good sign on a Sunday morning. On the other end was Chief Sudduth. His voice lacked his usual steady and confident tone. He was clearly shaken as he informed me that the First Sargent had been killed that morning in a motorcycle accident. The next morning I faced an assembly of airmen as we embarked on a major operation readiness exercise without our first sergeant. We were without our a beloved leader; a wife was without her husband; three children were without a father. Although the room was packed with people, it felt empty, devoid of life and energy. Although the light blazed brightly the room seemed dark.
That morning, it was one of the young NCO’s who gave us the way forward. He pointed out that above all else Moses stood for uncompromising excellence, so the best way to honor him was go forward in our exercise with that same commitment to excellence. And that is what we did. When the exercise was over, we put on our dress uniforms and participated in his “home going service” where his UPS supervisor and I spoke of his commitment to excellence in all aspects of life, both vocationally and spiritually. Throughout my time in command, and to this day, I carry a part of Moses Haynes with me, reminding me that “excellence in all we do” is a way of life.
By nature I’m a “glass half full” kind of guy. As I read today’s psalm, it was the verses that followed that put it in perspective for me.
12 But You, O Lord, shall endure forever,
And the remembrance of your name to all generations.
13 You will arise and have mercy on Zion;
For the time to favor her,
Yes, the set time, has come.
14 For your servants take pleasure in her stones,
And show favor to her dust.
15 So the nations shall fear the name of the Lord,
And all the kings of the earth your glory.
16 For the Lord shall build up Zion;
he shall appear in his glory.
When I look back on this, and other times when I have felt the psalmist’s lament, the lament has never burdened me for long. At the time I doubt I could have told you why, but I now believe that it was verses 12-16 at work. Out of every lamentable situation, I have come out the other side with a better, stronger, deeper love and appreciation of our heavenly Father.
Is this not part of the hope of Advent?