Dear Salvation Army, Expressions of an Officer at Christmas

The “Hope” for all the world!

Perhaps this will sound poetic and a little disjunct…perhaps you will relate.
Every year we gear up, dear Officer, staff, volunteers and friends.
Every year we spend countless hours planning, preparing and executing a plan for “others”.

I am tired.
I am weary.
I am a little banged up and bruised.
I am bruised physically,
but most of it is on the inside…the frequent personal encounters.
the connections with the cynical, the battered, the broken, the apathetic.
many have given up.
many have lost touch with compassion.
many are consumed with self-driven purpose.
sometimes all I can do is find one solitary moment and exhale.
sometimes I have laid tired bones upon a pew in a sanctuary that is far too often deserted.

at night, following the long burdensome day
I drive home and on my way I peer past windows and homes
illuminated by twinkling Christmas lights and trees carefully donned
with ornaments, keepsakes and aspirations.
lights1I cannot help but covet in these moments.
I cannot help but long for something that vaguely resembles idealic Christmas’
I have seen on the big screen.
I cannot help but pine for something out of reach to me.
It is selfish, I know.
It is a little melodramatic.
it is, at times, unrealistic…it is a dream, a blur in my rearview mirror.
I park the car in the driveway, hang up my coat, lounge for a time and slumber for a while
only to do it all again.

Expressions of Purpose:
In spite of these emotions.
in spite of these longings.
in spite of my covetous spirit…I plod on.
There is a reason.
There is a purpose to this.
Something beyond working tired bones to a daily grind.
Something past human personal needs.

eyesI have seen tired, hopeless eyes.
these eyes are not the ones staring back at me in the mirror.
I see them every day.
I see them in faces of parents desperately trying to make ends meet.
I see them in the eyes of single mothers who  work three jobs
and is weeping in front of me.
I see hopelessness in the dirty work clothes of an underpaid worker
coming in for a foodbox because this month’s rent is late.

We could all just pretend these needs are not real.
we could imagine they all deserve the circumstances they find themselves in
we could easily compartmentalize this
push it down
swallow the guilt and conscience…
but we are soldiers.
fightwe are fighters
we fight for more than food boxes and funding
we fight for the lives of these hopeless souls
we fight even in the midst of our covetous moments…
when in the rearview mirror we see a life that glitters and glimmers
beckoning to us…

sometimes we have to dig down deep to keep fighting.
sometimes we have to be pulled up short to be reminded.
sometimes we enter the fray with jaded hearts.
sometimes we would prefer to spectate, deliberate and end our day
by putting it all out of our minds.

Expressions of Reason:
Yes, dear soldier,
we work this insanity at Christmas
yes, sometimes it seems unholy, improper
all in vain.
walking awayWe could walk away,
others will pick up the slack
others will finish what we started
others will lend a helping hand.
Does faith play into this?
Where does our walk with the Lord lead?
Have we left Him behind in OUR works?
Have we begun to do this great thing
for man’s glory instead of His glory?
Are our intentions pure?
Or are we just chasing the dollar signs?
Capturing notoriety….
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me...”
(Luke 9:23)
Is this what discipleship looks like?
Do we get it wrong sometimes?
are we truly denying ourselves in this?
Is this “cross” worth carrying?
These questions arise in me during this time.
Sometimes His holy presence stills these thoughts
other times they get bantered about
tossed around, chewed on, bitten into
sometimes they get spit out…

Expressions of Compassioncompassion
But in the eyes of the hopeless
in the lives of the desperate
in the darkness of the forlorn
I have an opportunity to help.
I have a chance to mend brokenness
I have these hands that are able to pick up
the broken pieces and, with the holy spirit, help
to put the pieces back together again.
Can I attain and capture this compassion?
It isn’t in me…it never was, nor will it ever be…
homeless1It isn’t something I am born with
or some sort of innate empathy for complete strangers…
I am, at times,
the priest that walks on by in that parable of the Samaritan.
I am incapable of it…by my own strength, heart, and power.
Without Him, I can do nothing.
Without His strength, heart, and power
this compassion is far beyond my reach.
I want to help.
I want to serve.
I want to live this set-apartness
To experience this holiness
To shine His light…
help me to express
your restoration
your forgiveness
your deliverance
your love.

These are some expressions of an Officer at Christmas.
There’s nothing wrong or right about it, just expressions, inflections, conversations of the heart.
Often times these conversations become reality and represent us.
I understand weariness.
I understand frustrations.
I understand fighting this – for good and for ill.

In the end, at least for me, it boils down to where my heart is…whose heart is mine…what or who I serve…
this makes all the difference between pointless, mindless work and mission-filled service to the Almighty.

Something for the Army to ponder today.
To God Be The Glory!


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