VIDEO Tips for Veterans celebrating Independence Day

Cooking, Coping and Caring

For many, Independence Day brings to mind cookouts, friends and fireworks to celebrate our Nation’s independence.

If you are hosting a cookout, keep in mind there are some food safety guidelines to grilling and leaving food outdoors. “The rule of thumb is that after your food has been sitting out for two hours, it should be refrigerated, and after four days throw it away,” said Brooke Ward, VA Clinical Dietitian and MOVE Coordinator at the Salem, Virginia VAMC.

Independence Day celebrations could also trigger uneasiness and discomfort.

According to Dr. Julie Usala, a clinical psychologist specializing in PTSD treatment at the Salem VA Medical Center in Virginia, Veterans can plan ahead by letting their family and friends know if something makes them feel uncomfortable. Recognizing triggers ahead of time can help avoid bigger problems down the road. Common symptoms experienced around July 4th may include:

      • Light sensitivity to fireworks and sparklers, especially at night.
      • Strong reactions to sounds, such as fireworks and ceremonial gun and cannon fire.
      • Uneasiness or feeling on edge in crowds.
      • Feeling more jumpy or easily startled.
      • Flashbacks (feeling as if traumatic events are actually happening again), frequently in response to sounds or smells.
      • Feeling emotionally distant or cut off from family and friends during celebrations.
      • Engaging in risky behaviors, such as drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, in order to push away unwanted traumatic thoughts.

Practice a few self-help tips or relaxation exercises to relieve feelings of uneasiness.

For friends or family: Paying Attention

If you are hosting a 4th of July party or picnic:

  • Ask guests ahead of time if they have difficulty around the holiday.
  • Consider safe alternatives to typical Independence Day celebrations. For example, if a Veteran friend or family member is alarmed by the loud sound of fireworks, you can suggest that your group use sparklers instead.
  • Consider reducing or removing substances such as alcohol from your 4th of July events.

Dr. Usala added,“Recent research suggests that Veterans are at a much higher risk for engaging in violent behaviors if both PTSD and Substance Use Disorders are present than if either diagnosis is present alone.” Centering celebrations around activities other than alcohol consumption is recommended.

Remember to be courteous and don’t be afraid to discuss your plans with guests, friends and neighbors to ensure everyone has a happy and safe Independence Day.

More resources for Veterans and their loved ones can be found at


Tips for Veterans celebrating Independence Day



One Accord

They were all with one accord.  Acts 2:1

On seven occasions, the writer of the book of Acts tells us the early Christians were of  “one accord.” They were in one accord in the Upper Room awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit in an attitude of prayer and expectancy (Acts 1:14 and 2:1). They were in one accord after the events of the Day of Pentecost when three thousand new believers were added to their numbers (Acts 2:41, 46). They were in one accord during persecution (Acts 4:24) and in times of praise (Acts 5:12). They were in one accord listening to the preaching of the Gospel (Acts 8:6) and when sending out missionaries (Acts 15:25).

When the Philippian church encountered some difficulties, the apostle Paul told them to “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Philippians 2:2). The Early Church understood what we must recognize today—that Christians are encouraged and blessed when they come together with a common purpose.

If you’re upset with someone you know—it might be a family member or fellow church attender—ask the Lord to search your heart. Perhaps the problem is a trace of bitterness or offended pride within. The Bible says, “Strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men” (Acts 24:16).

Rejoice today with one accord…rejoice and praise our mighty Lord. Henry W. Baker, hymnist

Be Not of This World

2 Timothy 3:1-5

“What is going on in the world?”  You’ve probably heard people say this. And as Christians, we sometimes wonder how we are to live in a culture that seems to be on a downhill trajectory ethically. Since Jesus said of His disciples, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:16), we can certainly conclude that our lives should look different from unbelievers’ lives.

The darker things become, the more pronounced should be the contrast between our way of life and the world’s. And one of the most obvious differences should be in the area of love. In 2 Timothy 3:1-5, Paul warned that in the last days (a period just before Jesus’ return) mankind would be lovers of self, money, and pleasure rather than of God and others. Such misplaced affection results in arrogance, ungratefulness, unholiness, and all the other tragic descriptions found in this passage. When love becomes distorted, these vices inevitably follow. And today we see the evidence of this all around us, don’t we?

Even the technology that makes life easier is drawing us apart. Face-to-face conversations and phone calls are increasingly being replaced with emails and texts. Everywhere we turn, eyes are looking down at phones rather than seeing the people right in front of them.

The good news is that we can make a difference by intentionally living and loving differently from the world around us. As the Lord told us in Matthew 22:37-40, the way to fight the lovelessness all around us is by loving God and our neighbors.

Heaven of Heavens

“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?” (1 Kings 8:27)

The term “heaven” is not just a general term for where the souls of the righteous go after death. The Bible actually speaks of the “third heaven,” the realm to which Paul was once temporarily “caught up into paradise” (2 Corinthians 12:4). The term is also applied to the realm of the atmosphere and to the realm of the stars (e.g., Genesis 1:14, 20). In fact, the Hebrew word shamayim is actually a plural noun, often rendered “heavens” as well as “heaven.”

The concept of “first heaven,” “second heaven,” and “third heaven” may also have another meaning, depending on context. For example, Peter speaks of “the heavens [which] were of old,” “the heavens . . . which are now,” and the “new heavens” which God has promised (2 Peter 3:5, 7, 13) in the ages to come. The phrase “heaven of heavens” actually occurs at least six times in the Old Testament.

Presumably, the “heaven of heavens” is where God now has His heavenly throne and to which, after His resurrection, Christ “ascended up far above all heavens” (Ephesians 4:10) to be seated at the right hand of the Father. It is beyond all the stars and galaxies and presumably has no end. It may be synonymous with the third heaven (the extra-biblical literature speaks of a “seventh heaven,” but this idea is not in the Bible).

Someday, however, the heavenly Jerusalem will come “down from God out of heaven” (Revelation 21:2), and “the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it” (Revelation 22:3). The heaven of heavens will be on Earth (the new earth) and we also shall be there—with our Lord—forever. Therefore, sing praises “to him that rideth upon the heavens of heavens” (Psalm 68:33). HMM

Throw Off Low Moral Enthusiasm

And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.

—2 Chronicles 31:21

Were some watcher or holy one from the bright world above to come among us for a time with the power to diagnose the spiritual ills of church people, there is one entry which I am quite sure would appear on the vast majority of his reports: Definite evidence of chronic spiritual lassitude; level of moral enthusiasm extremely low….

It is true that there is a lot of religious activity among us: interchurch basketball tournaments, religious splash parties followed by devotions, weekend camping trips with a Bible quiz around the fire. Sunday school picnics, building fund drives and ministerial breakfasts are with us in unbelievable numbers, and they are carried on with typical American gusto. It is when we enter the sacred precincts of the heart’s personal religion that we suddenly lose all enthusiasm.

So we find this strange and contradictory situation: a world of noisy, headlong religious activity carried on without moral energy or spiritual fervor.   OGM003-004

In the busyness of spiritual leadership and church activity, keep me, Lord, from boredom or burn-out. Help me to stay personally fresh in my enthusiasm for You, so that in turn I can pass that genuine enthusiasm on to the people with whom I minister. Amen.


Continue in prayer, and watch

Continue in prayer, and watch in the same.—Colossians 4:2.


But if distractions manifold prevail,

And if in this we must confess we fail,

Grant us to keep at least a prompt desire,

Continual readiness for prayer and praise,

An altar heaped and waiting to take fire

With the least spark, and leap into a blaze.

Richard Chenevix Trench


When the set time comes round for prayer, it may be, and often is, the case that the mind is depressed, and finds it a hard struggle to raise itself up to communion with God. Your purpose is to hold communion with the Infinite Wisdom and Infinite Love; can you do this, or even attempt this, without coming away from the exercise brighter, aimer, happier, stronger against evil? Make a vigorous effort to throw your whole soul into some very short petition, and the spirit of inertness and heaviness shall be exorcised. But if not, and thy mind be dry to the end, do not disquiet thyself. If only thou makest a sincere effort to draw near to God, all shall be well. He sees that thou hast a will to pray, and accounts the will for the deed.

Edward Meyrick Goulburn.


Pray hardest when it is hardest to pray.

Charles H. Brent.


A Guide To Go All the Way

“He will be our guide even unto death.” Ps. 48:14

We need a guide. Sometimes we would give all that we have to be told exactly what to do, and where to turn. We are willing to do right, but we do not know which out of two roads we are to follow. Oh, for a guide!

The Lord our God condescends to serve us as guide. He knows the way, and will pilot us along it till we reach our journey’s end in peace. Surely we do not desire more infallible direction. Let us place ourselves absolutely under His guidance, and we shall never miss our way. Let us make Him our God and we shall find Him our guide. If we follow His law we shall not miss the right road of life, provided we first learn to lean upon Him in every step that we take.

Our comfort is, that as He is our God for ever and ever, He will never cease to be with us as our guide. “Even unto death” will He lead us, and then we shall dwell with Him eternally, and go no more out for ever. This promise of divine guidance involves life-long security: salvation at once, guidance unto our last hour, and then endless blessedness. Should not each one seek this in youth, rejoice in it in middle life, and repose in it in old age? This day let us look up for guidance before we trust ourselves out of doors.