Freedom Isn't Free

(I don’t know who wrote this)

I watched the flag pass by one day,
It fluttered in the breeze.

A young Marine saluted it,
And then he stood at ease..

I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud,
With hair cut square and eyes alert
He’d stand out in any crowd.

I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil
How many mothers’ tears?

How many pilots’ planes shot down?
How many died at sea
How many foxholes were soldiers’ graves?
No, freedom isn’t free.

I heard the sound of Taps one night,
When everything was still,
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That Taps had meant “Amen,”

When a flag had draped a coffin.
Of a brother or a friend.

I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.

I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea

Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, freedom isn’t free.

Friendship Quotes

True Friendship

“It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882)

“A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.”
– Solomon – Proverbs 17:17

“One loyal friend is worth ten thousand relatives.”
– Euripides, Greek playwright

“Never injure a friend, even in jest.”
– Cicero, Roman Philosopher 106BC – 43BC

“A true friend stabs you in the front.”
– Oscar Wilde

“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”
– Helen Keller

“Be slow in choosing your friends; slower in changing.”
-Benjamin Franklin

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.

“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.”
-Solomon – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

“What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.”


“A friend is one who knows us, but loves us anyway.”
-Jerome Cummings

“You only meet your once in a lifetime friend… once in a lifetime.”
-The Little Rascals

“…no man is useless while he has a friend.”
-Robert Louis Stevenson

“My father always used to say that when you die, if you’ve got five real friends, then you’ve had a great life.”
– Lee Iacocca

It is not what you give your friend, but what you are willing to give him that determines the quality of friendship.
– Mary Dixon Thayer

“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
– Solomon  – Proverbs 18:24

“Greater Love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
YOU are MY friends…”
– Jesus, John 15:13-14a

Tabi and Abe on Sharp Axes

Here is a copy of a speech that I helped a 16 year old at my church develop. It was both fun and rewarding to help her with this and watch it and her develop over time. But it was even more interesting to see how her life suddenly got crazy busy while she was working on a speech about busyness and how we can be prepared for it and handle it. Not avoid it. Be ready for it. Because there are times, and perhaps even entire seasons, of life, where it’s both unavoidable and important to do what we are doing.

She sent me another quote a week or so after the fact from Abe Lincoln: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

Good job, Tabi. I’m very proud of you.

Am I too busy to serve the Lord?
By Tabi Layton


Some years ago a young man looking for work approached a foreman of a logging crew and asked him for a job. “It depends,” replied the foreman. “Let’s see you take this one down.”

The young man stepped forward and skillfully felled a great tree. The foreman was impressed and exclaimed, “You can start on Monday!”

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday rolled by. Thursday afternoon the foreman approached the young man and said, “You can pick up your paycheck on the way out today.”

Startled, the young man asked,” I thought you paid on Fridays.”

“Normally we do,” answered the foreman, “but we’re letting you go today because you’ve fallen behind. Our daily charts show that you’ve dropped from first place on Monday to last place on Wednesday.”

“But I’m a hard worker,” the young man objected. “I arrive first, leave last, and I’ve even worked through my coffee breaks!”

The foreman, sensing the boy’s integrity, thought for a minute and then asked, “Have you been sharpening your ax?”

The young man replied, “Well, no sir. I’ve been working too hard to take the time.”

This young man did not understand the importance of sharpening his ax. He was so busy working as hard as he could that he neglected the most important thing that made His work effective. This is a problem Christians are faced with, as well; we become so busy serving the Lord that we often lose sight of whose glory we are working for.

We should never be too busy to serve the Lord; every breath we take is a gift from Him. When we do become busy, it should be to further God’s kingdom, not centered on worldly interests. This can sometimes seem really difficult, putting God first in all we do, but that is where God wants to be. Serving Him doesn’t require training; all we need is a willing heart. Sometimes a simple e-mail or text message is what God chooses to show His love through.

However, we must be careful to make sure that our busyness does not deteriorate our relationship with others and with God. We can’t let our service become routine, something we think we have to do. The beauty of serving God is that we want to, because of all He has done for us. It’s a way of saying ‘I love you’ back to our Maker who says it to us by reaching down and picking us up when we fall. When our actions match what we say, it screams to others that it is something very close to our hearts.

The balance of matching our actions with our words can be difficult, but it is necessary. James 2:14-17 is a great example of this importance: “What good is it, dear brothers, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, ‘Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well’—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.”

The balance comes when your relationship with God is continuously growing; you fall more in love with Him everyday. And because you have that amazing love for Him, you can’t help but serve the ones He came to save! The closer you become to God, the more you yearn to be like him. In John 13 we find Jesus Christ himself acting in service to those he loves. This isn’t normal service, this is loving service, and it has special qualities that make it unique and effective. You begin to want to serve others because of the deep love God puts in your heart.

It is important that we maintain these qualities by keeping our ax sharp and ready for use. To keep our ax sharp, we need to grow closer in our relationship to God. As we love God and serve others with the same love, our service becomes a praise offering to God and an example to those around us.

1 Peter 4: 9-11 says, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.”

In these verses, verse 9 is the one that catches my attention, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” We are supposed to offer it, not wait until we are asked. If someone has a need that the Holy Spirit is prompting us to meet, we should do all we can to help out. It doesn’t matter if we had plans or if we are too busy, we are to drop everything to go help those who need it, and not complain about it.

Our service to others is the same as our service to God, and if that’s true, then why should we grumble about serving our Savior, the Creator of the universe? In Matthew 25:40 Jesus tells his disciples, “Whatever you do for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” This is something we often forget when presented with an opportunity to serve others.

These passages come back to one main point: that our actions and words should reflect God. We are used to administer God’s grace, to speak His words, and use the strength He gives to serve. All of this is to bring glory to God, to bring praise to Jesus Christ. If we are careful to sharpen our ax, we can work efficiently and our service can be a joy to us and to others, while deepening our relationship with our Maker all the while. Our service is a gift to and from God, and when we become busy, it becomes all the more important to keep our focus on God.

Ties Beyond Blood

Does the journey from boyhoood to manhood need to be recognized? Or will it just happen? Do we, as fathers, brothers, mentors, and sons ourselves, need to usher boys into the life of a man?

That’s the question that Raising a Modern Day Knight seeks to answer, both in concept and in deed. I’m almost done with the book, actually, but the chapter I read this morning titled “Commemorating a Transcendent Cause” really connected with me. The previous several chapters had outlined several ideas for ceremoneously bringing young men into the world of men. The point wasn’t that you have to grab them on their 18th birthday or their college graduation – the point was, they need to be grabbed. Whether it’s a lonely walk through the woods that is interupted by significant men in the boy’s life, or a steak dinner with a father and his comrades sharing their own journeys, boys need to be welcomed into this world. It will not happen accidently. It will not happen on it’s own, unless you really, really, really want to count fraternities, gangs, and the local saloon gang as your initiators.

This chapter I read today went back to the model of Jesus, and how He, the very Son of God, had a need to be initiated. It says:

The physical and emotional characteristics of human flesh were present in Jesus Christ. Scripture tells us that Jesus possessed a body (John 2:21). For this reason, He got hungry (Matthew 4:2) and thirsty (John 19:28) and grew weary (John 4:6). Jesus wept at the sadness of others (John 11:35) and prayed with loud crying (Hebrews 5:7). He was tempted as we are tempted, but without sin (Hebrews 2:18)

Jesus the man was needy. If this statement disturbs you, then you have overlooked Christ’s humanity. As a man, Jesus needed to be affirmed and encouraged. Seen in this light, the Father’s word [at his baptism] became profoundly significant. … As with every man, His Father’s opinion mattered. Greatly. At one of the most critical moments in his life, Jesus needed to hear a word of affirmation from His Father, a hearty word of praise that would buttress His confidence and bolster his courage.

Why do I see this [again, his baptism] as the preeminence event in Jesus’ life? Because at His baptistm, the two most important elements in a son’s life – the embrace of a transcendent cause and a father’s affirmation – came together in one unforgettable, breathtaking moment.

At His baptism, Jesus Christ embraced his mission and then heard His Father say, “I’m proud of you, My Son!” The transcendent cause was blessed, affirmed, and “spiked” by the Father’s vocal affirmation. If He held any doubts about His course in life, they were vangquished in that one instance. Every temptation He would encounter and all the hardships HE would endure were immediatly put into perspective. He embraced His mission, and He was affirmed by His Father, investing the moment with reverential awe.

The author concludes this with how it applies to our own lives with our sons:

I believe that one of the finest moments in any son’s life is when he embrases his transcendent cause and then hears his father say, “I’m proud of you, my son!… I’m pleased with the course you’ve chosen in life!… You’ve chosen well!” What can be better than this?”

He goes on to talk about the great opportunity a father has to bless his son’s life by participating in his baptism. It doesn’t mean you have to dunk him or have a speach prepared… but wouldn’t a public participation like that mean something beyond just sitting in the front row or manning the video recorder?

As I look back on my own life, I see all sorts of men who have brought me to be who I am today. Both for the qualities of my Father in Heaven than I have embraced, and for what I am still lacking, struggling with, or completely unaware of. When I first began to really walk this path about 3 years ago, I felt so lonely in it. My dad had recently broken ties and left. My life was full of casual friends that knew nothing about me. I was still in a relatively new marriage relationship with all sorts of baggage on both sides, much of it completely undealt with on my side, for sure. I realized I needed healing. I realized I needed to be restored, to be affirmed, but none of these people in my life could give it to me! I sought it from them, I tried to barter it and buy it from them, but they couldn’t give it to me.

It was then that I had my eyes opened to the fact that the same Father that gave Jesus the affirmation He needed was the same one that could ultimately give it to me. I remember the day I pulled the 1″ wide electrical cable from 3 feet below the ground through a 3 inch pipe 6 feed above the ground in the rain and mud, how I did it, and then sat down in the mud, hearing those words… “We did it,” from my True Father. I remember the day I finished building the stalls in the new barn, again, seemingly alone, but truly closer to my Father than I had ever been. I remember His words, His pats on the back, and even now, the way those moments hold weight in my life as anchors that I can look back on and remember… It’s true.

I now see that I have a wife I am free to love, not obligated out of duty or because that’s the only way I can get love back. I have brothers who I can share anything with, not to simply “be accountable to,” but because they want to be part of my life, and want me to be part of theirs. They are comrades, brothers in arms, fighting this fight of holiness and being Kingdom Outposts alongside me. I have fathers, uncles, sisters, mothers, and even sons and daughters whose ties go far beyond blood. Well. I guess I can’t say that… they go far beyond “Cromer blood.”

My son seems a long way off from his “journey to manhood.” But even now, as he seeks to help me spread mulch, I can see the hurt in his eyes when I tell him to “stop doing that” or “you’re doing it the wrong way!” He wants my affirmation already. He wants to know that I want him there. I see the same thing in some of the kids and youth I have opportunity to pour any part of my life into… they want to know that they’re worth my time. And is that really all that much to ask? To give time? To make some ceremony? To tell them, “you have what it takes,” and “you’re worth fighting for?”