The Death Of The Sacred

I have a confession to make.
Well, it’s really not much of a confession, more of a revealing of my nature.
Here goes, I love technology.
I love how it makes things convenient for me. My schedules are synced to my computer and my phone, I can create presentations from most of my mobile devices (of which I have multiple devices), and I can take striking photos and create beautiful banners that look like art…all because of technology.

The Dangers
Despite the fact that I love technology, I have become more and more aware that I can become too dependent upon it for everything. My car even tells me where to go these days, so rarely do I acknowledge or recognize the direction in which I am going – my mobile GPS does it all…well, except drive (but I can’t wait until it can!…Okay, I digress).

Despite all of these technological advances in our age, I truly feel like we run the risk of losing the ancient and the sacred. What do I mean by this?
Our attention spans have grown shorter since the introduction of cellular devices. You don’t believe me? Can you go an entire hour without looking at your phone, either to check for new status updates on social media or to see if that special someone has texted you? It is becoming increasingly difficult even for me to divorce myself from the tech all around me and I fear I am losing the sacred even in my own life.

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How about you?

Can you put your phone down?
Can you close your laptop, tablet, other devices without feeling the ‘itch” to check it again?

What do I mean by ‘Sacred’?
If you were to study the spiritual disciplines, these things that I consider ‘sacred’ would be:
Meditation
Prayer
Fasting

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Solitude and Practicing Presence

Study
Simplicity
Solitude
Submission
Service
Confession
Worship
Guidance
Celebration (In God’s Presence)
(Source: Renovare )

It is very difficult to do any of these sacred things when our attention spans have grown short and shorter. For some of you reading this right now, you might even get hung up on the word ‘sacred’, because some of you perhaps have an issue with the practice of anything liturgical or what some might consider “high Church”…needless to say we can become so distracted that the sacred has died in our age, or is in its death throws as we speak.

Perhaps the next question should be:
How do we revive the sacred in our lives“?
Here are my suggestions to help you with this process, but as a caveat to this, each person is different, and if you find that something works better than something else, do what helps you to revive the sacred in your life.

1) Make a list
Make a list of all the distractions in your life.
This will help you recognize the things that prevent you from entering into those sacred moments. Remember, that the elements are not the desired goal, but rather the fellowship with our Father in Heaven should be our desire. It is in the moments of the sacred that we encounter the Divine.

2) De-clutter a space.
After you have acknowledge and listed the things that distract, find a specific space to de-clutter and prepare. No space is holy, it is our attitudes and focus that allows us to tune into the presence of God. So, if a closet is the space you choose, the so be it. God’s presence isn’t fixed in specific locations, because the Holy Spirit resides in His people. The space we de-clutter is for us, that we might focus and prepared to receive and listen.

3) Sit in Silence (Try not to fall asleep)
I saw this partly in jest, because I have, at times, placed myself in silence and have struggled with slumber. Other times, your body is telling you to get more sleep, and perhaps we need to listen to that. A time of silence can help us enter into the sacred, although I openly acknowledge (as an extrovert) that this practice is much hard for me. Perhaps you will find it easier…if you do, please enlighten me by commenting below.

4) Converse with God.
You don’t need special words, or a litany of things to bring Him…have an honest conversation. After all, He knows you better than you know yourself – He made you, so He understands your intricacies and nuances. He is aware of your situations and the things you struggle with. Be honest, because you can’t fool God – He already knows. What this conversation does is opens our lives before Him as we acknowledge elements of it verbally.

5) Begin with one of the above mentioned disciplines…study, read and apply:
The last one will take patience.
This isn’t an instant gratification, fast food type of habit.
You must acclimate yourself.
This will take discipline and acknowledgment that it will not occur over night, but rather gradually as you apply yourself to this task.

The sacred is not dead…yet.
Don’t let it perish because of our distractions – at least in this generation.
Perhaps we have to eliminate the distractions in order for us to return to the sacred. Perhaps it is within our own busy minds that this war needs to be waged. Where ever the distractions lay, confront them and carve out those intentional moments in which we might encounter the Divine.

Something more to ponder today.


10 Ministry Tools for the Non-Musically Inclined Pastor.

YouNot all of us pastors have the luxury of having a full worship band, pianist and an ear for music. Let’s face it, some of us reading this article right now can’t carry a tune in a bucket…and that’s okay. We don’t all have to have the gift of music. Scripture even points out the various gifts that we are all given and appointed with (Eph 4:11, 1 Peter 4:10-11), and just as the focus on speaking in tongues can become an issue, so too then use of music. Don’t get me wrong, music in worship can be most beneficial to the body of Christ, but it should be viewed as a conduit to deeper worship, not the desired end result.

Today, let us focus on this element of worship with the non-musical pastors in mind. If you fit this mold, then take note. My wife is very, very talented in other areas of ministry, but she will openly admit that music is not one of those talents.

There are many, many pastors in small churches or corps that do not have a musical bone in their bodies, and that’s okay. I want to help you find some tools to use within worship that will assist you and your congregation within and even around the conduit of music on Sunday.

1) YouTube Videos/YouTube Video Downloaders.
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If you are not musical at all, you might utilize a plethora of Christian worship music on YouTube. There are even Youtube downloaders that you can use to have the videos accessible in places of worship where WiFi and the internet are sketchy or nonexistent. Using a video on YouTube could include modern top 40 Christian songs, a movie clip, or numerous other topics other than just music.

Don’t neglect the power of videos and or worship songs in your Sunday services. Feel free to be creative and intentional in the planning of your service theme too. Caution: This will take time, so don’t just throw everything together on Saturday night and expect amazing results…intentional planning takes time and hours. We are all busy people, but not taking the time to find the appropriate videos and/or music, is noticeable in our services (I’ve been guilty of this too).

2) iSing Worship (app)
This is a great app that does cost a little bit, but is a tremendous tool if you have a portable device like an iPad or iPhone. The app is free, but the songs will you about $3 a piece, which is only a dollar more than what you would pay for songs you currently buy on Google Music store or the apple iTunes Store. When you buy these songs, you then have the ability to include all of the elements of the song (i.e lead vocals, guitar, drums etc.). So, for instance, if you wanted to lead the song you could turn the vocals down and sing with the music like it was Christian Karaoke hour. Or iSing worship could become your worship band in a box by simply hitting play. Be sure, however that you plan the songs you are going to sing ahead of time and have the words either printed or displayed on the screen for the congregation to sing along.

Just some of the songs I have purchased and used in my services.The nice thing about iSing Worship is that once you select the songs you want to present on Sunday, it comes up on the display in front of you with the Lyrics as you lead the song.I highly recommend this app if you are willing to invest a little bit of money for the songs.  It adds an element of intentionality into your worship, even if you’re not musically inclined.
3) Recruit & Delegate
One of the challenges for many pastors, regardless if they are musically inclined or not is the use of other people in worship services.   Do not be afraid to ask other people to help out, or lead elements of the service.   In fact, a shared worship experience with other people leads to a better all around worship service.  If you’re at all like me, perhaps you are a control freak and you want to ensure everything goes according to plan, perhaps we have to come to the conclusion that we must trust the Holy Spirit as well as other people.
When we share the worship experience with other people, we share ownership.  Be picky when you select, recruit and delegate people to these tasks, make sure you are selective and intentional.  Find people who have potential as future leaders or already established leaders.  It’s okay to fail or have rough worship experiences with these individuals, that’s a part of the learning & discipling challenge!
4) Utilize your Youth
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The apostle Paul told Timothy not to allow others to look down on him because he was young (1 Timothy 4:12)…the same can be said about young people in our churches and in the worship setting.  Use your young people, don’t discount their willingness and abilities to lead.  Teach them, disciple them as the future leaders by investing in them now within your worship services.  Have them help by reading a prayer, or scripture verse, a skit, or even by leading a song.  Some of your young people might be more musically gifted than you are – so cultivate that gift and use it in your worship service!Also, don’t let older people in your congregation overly criticize your young people.  We do not want to discourage their growth as future leaders, we want to encourage them.  Unfortunately most churches have the old grouches who grumble at anything new – even young people.  Don’t tolerate that behavior from any member of your congregation.  We need to disciple our youth, and this is a great way to begin to do that!5) Set the Stage (don’t neglect this!)


Regardless if you are musically inclined or not, we can become more creative in our church decor.  Don’t neglect the aesthetics of your worship space!  Take into account the seasons, the topics you are preaching on and use your worship space to reach all of the senses of the worshipper.  Use smells (plug ins, or spices, candles – but don’t let it become over-powering.  Use sites – place artwork up, or banners, build sets out of styrofoam and paint it…there are many links of Pinterest and other websites to explore and tap into our creative sides.
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Use worship songs at the beginning of the service through cd/mp3/computer…set the stage with song (even if you aren’t musical).
When we actually plan the scenes of worship within our worship spaces we introduce our congregations to a living and moving God.  The stages and worship places are concerts or performances, but there is something to be said about being intentional with the sights and sounds (and smells) or our spaces for the purpose of ushering our congregants into the very throne room of God.6) Worship Band in Hand (app) 80F2AEDA-13F8-4F91-9073-5EC1C971B0E4
This app also costs some money in terms of purchasing the songs that you want yo use, but it comes with a lot of features and abilities.  You get one free song included upon installation of the app, it gives you the opportunity to try in it out and see if you like it.7) Auto Pad(app) DB7C4580-E865-4E70-90EB-D6A043897404
This app will cost you $2.99, but there are many features that this ambient sound pad contains that could set your worship onto a new plain.  Perhaps you use this during your sermon and the use of tone and ambient sounds can deepen the worship experience.   Using such a tool might require you to include/recruit others to help you operate the app while you preach or read scripture.  Give this app a try and experiment with its use in your worship service!8) Lead a Messy Church instead!  messy church 2
Do you want to break up the monitany of the worship experience?  Do something different.  Some have begun to do dinner church, while others have started to incorporate Messy church into the worship experience.  Messy church can be a great way to reduce your music phobia by utilizing stations through this very practical, teachable methods.here is a link to a few that we have done over the years – https://pastorsponderings.org/category/messy-church/9) Conduct A Quaker Service7256EF73-FB9D-41F8-A2CB-50ABA8C4E724
A Quaker service generally is not focused on music, but instead the recitation of poetry, prayers, and the element of silence.   This type of service might be a stretch to many of your congregants, even more so than Messy Church because of the use of silence.  Despite the drawbacks, using this type of worship setting, but be just the thing your church or corps needs in order to have everyone dig a little more deeply into their hearts and minds.

Here is a link for more information on the Quaker service

10) Prayer Stations/Artistic Approach
20A21EF5-8630-4240-9045-86461F35EDE7Conduct a prayer service with stations.
If you want to get creative, you can go onto Pinterest and explore the many ideas expressed there when it comes to Prayer Stations.  This approach takes the focus off of the use of music and onto a hands-on prayer service.  You could quietly play worship music in the background through your sound system and encourage everyone to spend the next 45 minutes at the many prayer stations that you have intentionally set up in your sanctuary.  Here are some links to help guide you in this:
Prayer Loom
Thy Kingdom Come
Scrabble Pieces
More Pinterest Ideas

These are just 10 suggestions to help the non-musical and musical pastor a like, for the purpose of creating a deeper, more meaningful worship service.  These are not exclusively ‘it’ for worship ideas, but just a primer for more exploration and worship developement in your corps & churches.

Please tell us what you use in your churches that help to make your worship experiences more meaningful and helpful to you and your congregation?  Post your commends below, we want to hear from you.

Something more for all of us to Ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Lenten Perspectives Day 3 – Featuring Bob Hostetler

Where Jesus Died

 READ: I Corinthians 15:1-5

“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (I Cor. 15:3b, NIV)

In family devotions with our two young children, my wife and I often repeated the story of Calvary and Jesus’ death on a cross. We were not sure of the story’s impact on our son’s and daughter’s minds until one day when we were driving cross-country on a car trip.

As the miles rolled by under our car, we suddenly spied in the distance a hill with three crosses outlined clearly on the summit. My children watched silently until we began to pass the hilltop arrangement. Finally, in a voice of awe, my four-year-old son whispered, “Daddy, is that where Jesus died?”

I tried tenderly to explain that, no, the place where Jesus died was far from that hillside.

I’ve since come to regard my answer as a little hasty. Of course, Jesus did die at a specific spot on the surface of the earth. But in another sense, maybe He did die on that hillside, if that is where one of His children came to faith in Him. For me, He “died” at a scratched and pitted wooden campground altar. For one of my friends, it was literally a ditch beside a country road. For others, the place was a storefront church or a kitchen table. Perhaps that’s what hymnwriter (and Salvation Army general) Albert Orsborn meant when he wrote, “On every hill our Saviour dies, and not on Calvary’s height alone,” for wherever I accept His love and sacrifice, that place becomes a Calvary.


On every hill our Saviour dies,

And not on Calvary’s height alone;

His sorrows darken all our skies,

His griefs for all our wrongs atone.


Present he is in all our woes,

Upon a world-wide cross is hung;

And with exceeding bitter throes

His world-embracing heart is wrung.

Chorus

Go! Cry the news from every hill;

Go! Ring the earth with sacred flame;

To pardon is the Father’s will,

And Jesus is the Saviour’s name.

PRAYER: Jesus, keep me near the cross where, as a trembling soul, love and mercy found me.

 THOUGHT: The cross of Christ spans the ages and the miles to meet the needy soul. . . anywhere.

Bob Bob Hostetler is an award winning and best-selling author whose work is prolific.  He is also a gifted speaker and pastor.  

http://www.bobhostetler.com

 

Lenten Perspective Pondering – Featuring Cadet Bobby Key

“The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God.”  -Psalm 51:17

I have never been much of a lent observer. You know, the part where people give up certain things for the entirety of Lent. I understand the meaning behind it, and why people do this, but it never appealed to me. As I get ready to graduate from seminary in a few months, God has been revealing His word to me in a new and exciting ways. So, this year, for the first time ever, I gave up sugar. Anyone who knows me knows how difficult this really is. The first day was awful. It is all I thought about all day. I thought about it in class, when I was at home with my family, and even in the middle of the night. All I wanted to do was give up.

As a young teenager, I often felt this way about Jesus. I felt that following Him was too difficult. I thought about all of the things that I would have to give up. I even felt like the Israelites at times. The forgiveness of sins required too much. I would never be able to live a holy life, and I was tired of disappointing God. Giving up on my faith seemed like the right thing to do.

Even though I had all of these feelings of failure and frustration, I pressed on. I did not give up. Just like I am doing in this season of lent. A little over a week into it, and it has gotten much easier. I still think about the things I am giving up, but it doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore. There are cupcakes, and cookies, and ice cream that I miss, but these are the times when I turn to him in prayer. This is what lent is all about, isn’t it? What is the thing that I need to give up that will draw me closer to the heart of Jesus?

This verse from Psalms is the verse I have been claiming this past year. David has just been confronted by Nathan about his transgression with Bathsheba. David is in deep anguish. He is crying out to God for forgiveness. Even though David needs to sacrifice burnt offerings, he knows that what God really wants is our heart. What God really wants from is our broken heart. A broken heart because we have broken His. He wants us to come before Him with a contrite spirit, a spirit that is deeply remorseful and affected by our guilt. God wants us to bring this to his feet. Lent reminds me to draw close to Him. It reminds me of the sacrifice He made for me on the cross. All He wants is me. All of me. Rest in the promise today that “God will not despise the sacrifices of our broken heart and contrite spirit.”

 -Cadet Bobby Key is a second year Cadet in the Central Territory USA, soon to be commissioned.-

What Are YOU Waiting For?

Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.” Acts 9:8-9

We probably know the story.
Saul was a Pharisee, who lived out his religious convictions by punishing members of “The Way”.  He was a devout Jew, and was very popular amongst his peers.  He did what he thought was right…he did what he perceived to be God’s will.  But he was wrong.  On his to Damascus, God intervened.  His truth was the light that blinded Saul but it also seared his heart.  A divine course correction took place, and the person known as Saul died on that road.  No, he didn’t die physically, but the road marked out the conclusion of that identity, that mission, that chapter.  To many of his devout followers, he would be dead in their eyes for he was set on a new path by God, that of which they could neither follow or believe in.

Those with whom Saul traveled with led this now blind man into the city of Damascus where we waited, and waited, and waited some more.  Whole sermons and sermon series’ have been preached on with this story – mostly focused on that road and God’s intervention and even Ananias when he arrives…but what about the waiting period between the two chapters?  What happened within the span of those three days?  I believe the soul searching that took place with this blind man once named Saul is just as important and has a lot to teach us.  This is not necessarily reading between the lines of the text, this is merely speculating, extrapolating and mulling over this human metamorphosis.  A blind man named Saul – Christian persecutor and sometimes executor went into Damascus, a transformed man on a mission named Paul exited that city with divine purpose, intent and a new found passion in life.

BUT…
What happened in those 3 days between blindness and commission?
What changes transpired there?
Is there something teachable in this narrative for you and for me?
I believe there is, so please allow me to share this with you now.
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“METAMORPHOSIS” 
3 Lessons from 3 Days of Blindness

1st Lesson:  Sometimes Spiritual Correction Hurts and We Must Do Some Deep Soul Searching
Saul thought he was doing what God wanted him to do.
He was fighting for and defending his faith…but he was, in fact, persecuting Christ.  He had passionately taken up his cause with vim and vigor and knew he was in the right…then God turned his whole world upside down.  He was confronted with his own failures…he was confronted with his own mistakes, and it must have hurt.  Saul spends three days of blindness not eating and drinking.  It is a sobering response to the Theophany he had just experienced.  Within the words of Jesus, there was a course correction and for three days Saul had to have replayed that scene over and over in his head.  He must have prayed and fasted.  He must have explored every action that had led him to this place, like a movie playing in his head for three long days.

I find it interesting that 3 days pass.
3 Days that seem like a real death and a real resurrection.
3 days of emotional and philosophical death until God’s messenger arrives to offer new life again.  In a very real sense, Saul is in his chrysalis transforming and arriving at a new physical place.

Do we have chapters like this in our lives?
Has there ever been spiritual correction in your life that has hurt?
God doesn’t enjoy hurting us, it is more for our benefit and growth that these corrections take place.  There’s an old phrase – “no pain, no gain” and I think it applies here.  If we don’t experience some discomfort in life from time to time we might remain stagnant and planted in incorrect spiritual patterns.  God doesn’t want us to remain there, He sees in us the potential for something better, greater and far more substantive that what we have settled for now.  He wishes to adjust our paths, and help us grow into maturity within our faith.  But we have to be willing to accept these corrections which, hurt, but are meant to help us grow…and sometimes set us on a new, more holy path than what we have settled on.

2nd Lesson:  There is Growth that Takes Place that Only Happens in Our Waiting on The Lord
waiting4Abraham was an old man before God’s promise of being the father to many nations was actually fulfilled, and certainly Abraham tried to speed up the process with his wife’s handmaiden Hagar.  But the waiting was necessary.

David was anointed as king and successor to king Saul, but he did not become king right away, he had to endure hurts, the loss of his best friend when he had ran for his life.  But he did not stop being faithful to God – he persisted and eventually the waiting produced the crown in God’s appointed time.

Waiting on the Lord can be tiring and frustrating, and we may sometimes question if God will really show up in our lives and our situations, but in those moments of waiting we grow.  These times of waiting produces in us perseverance, endurance and fortitude.  You might not believe that you can wait on the Lord.  You may question your own strength, but rest assured you are not alone – the Holy Spirit is with you giving you the strength that you need.  When we wait, we must recognize our finite while we wait for the Infinite to enter our stories.  Saul waited for the appointed time.  He wasn’t told how long it would be.  He wasn’t told who would show up as God’s ambassador…he just simply waited.

Are you waiting right now for God to show up?
Are you growing frustrated with the “waiting game”?
Maybe we will someday declare as David did in Psalm 40:
“I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him…”

Maybe we can declare this today!

3rd LessonThere is a New Chapter in the Future to Embrace, but First We must Embrace the Present. waitinghospital
Have you ever visited a doctor’s office?
I am sure that you have.
Most of the time there are two places that you find yourself waiting.  First, you have to wait to be seen by the nurse on duty at the front desk as they take your insurance card and all of your vital information.  Sometimes they even take your blood pressure.  Then they call your name and the nurse takes you through the waiting room door into a hallway which leads to another, more intimate waiting room.  Sometimes the nurse asks you to take off your clothes and put on a gown…and then wait.  This is sometimes the longest wait that you may have at the doctor’s office.  That uncomfortable time dressed only in a thin paper gown, sitting on an examination table while some elevator music is droning on and on in the background.  But we cannot speed up that time.  We have to simply wait, even when it’s not comfortable or the most desirable thing to do – we still wait.  Finally the doctor in a white coat comes in and then we get down to business and the present can then be moved into the future.

If we believe that God sent Jesus to die for us, that Jesus resurrected and went to prepare a place for us, then we already understand what it means to wait.  We aren’t in some doctor’s waiting room or anything but we must acknowledge that Jesus promised to return one day – and so His people anxiously wait for his return
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But what about the little things of life?
What about the prayers we utter in the hope that God will answer them?
What happens in the in between time of God encounter and fulfillment?
We wait.
Sometimes we wait and wait.
Saul didn’t eat or drink for 3 days.
This parched, blind man waited for God’s fulfillment.
He didn’t know when it would happen, but it WAS going to happen.
He didn’t know WHO God was sending, but in the present moment he waited.

Many times we might feel stuck in the present while we wait for God.
We might grow frustrated and even weary in our waiting, but let me encourage you today:  The present waiting room of your life IS where God meets us.
We might not yet know it yet, but He is already present and with you right here and now.  We do not need to pine for the future in a “some day” mindset when we understand that God is sitting with us in our present waiting rooms.

Saul met God, then we he had to wait, then when God’s appointed ambassador arrived the commission was given and a much transformed Paul emerged to do the will of God.

Are you waiting right now for God?
Remember this while you wait:
-Sometimes Spiritual Correction Hurts and We Must Do Some Deep Soul Searching.
-There is Growth that Takes Place that Only Happens in Our Waiting on The Lord.
-There is a New Chapter in the Future to Embrace, but First We must Embrace the Present.
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Something more to ponder today.
God Bless you!  

The Syrian Refugee Crisis…And You!

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
-Galatians 6:9

The Bad:

A Syrian refugee holds a baby in a refug...A Syrian refugee holds a baby in a refugee camp set in the town of Harmanli, south-east of Sofia on November 12, 2013. Bulgaria's asylum centres are severely overcrowded after the arrival of almost 10,000 refugees this year, half of them Syrian. The influx has fuelled anti-immigrant sentiment in a country already struggling with dire poverty. AFP PHOTO / NIKOLAY DOYCHINOVNIKOLAY DOYCHINOV/AFP/Getty Images
A Syrian refugee holds a baby in a refug…A Syrian refugee holds a baby in a refugee camp set in the town of Harmanli, south-east of Sofia on November 12, 2013. Bulgaria’s asylum centres are severely overcrowded after the arrival of almost 10,000 refugees this year, half of them Syrian. The influx has fuelled anti-immigrant sentiment in a country already struggling with dire poverty. AFP PHOTO / NIKOLAY DOYCHINOVNIKOLAY DOYCHINOV/AFP/Getty Images

Since the Syrian civil war took place five years ago, an estimated 4,000,000 (that’s MILLION) refugees have left the war-torn country.  Many have flooded into neighboring countries
It boggles the mind that there are countries in our world who would turn a blind eye to the plight of asylum seekers and refugees.  It has been reported that some of the wealthiest countries in the Middle East are doing nothing to help welcome foreign refugees from Syria.  The same can be said for some European countries as well.  Let’s call it for what it is.  This isn’t about fears of the economic mainframe and fears that a country can’t support a sudden influx of refugees.  This isn’t about resources at all, because either the EU would step in and help as would the United Nations.  In fact, just today one of the UN’s top officials said this current refugee crisis needs a global response (Source: UN Response To Current Crisis)   The refusal by some nations to help displaced Syrian families is abhorrent, wrong and despicable.   Apathy seems to be running rampant in parts of the world.  Self-interests are in play here, as is the practice of turning a blind eye and pretending it doesn’t really exist.  This is about inconvenience.  Some of this is also about ethnic and ideological differences.  Racism still exists.  Bigotry within cultures, religion and lifestyles still exist, and is alive and kicking.

The Good:

Fleeing bombardment of their village by Syria's Assad regime,
Fleeing bombardment of their village by Syria’s Assad regime, “Um Ali,” 38, as the mother of six children asked to be called, sits in the back of the cave they have found as their own shelter. The cave, just outside the village of al Sahriah, measures about 12 by 35 feet. (Andree Kaiser/MCT)

Germany was one of the first countries to step up and do something about this humanitarian crisis.
They have pledged to take up to 500,000 refugees a year!  That is amazing generosity, compassion and willingness to do something remarkable when others have turned a blind eye to the plight of these displaced families in need.
Now, the tide is (hopefully) turning – The Vatican has pledged support and is urging other nations and Christians to do the same.  Some countries, like the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and France are beginning to feel the pressure to offer more than just a band-aid solution but, perhaps a new home to many who are now homeless because of this horrific civil war.

More Still Remains To Be Done:

DAMASCUS, SYRIA - JANUARY 31: In this handout provided by the United Nation Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Residents wait in line to receive food aid distributed in the Yarmouk refugee camp on January 31, 2014 in Damascus, Syria. The United Nations renewed calls for the Syria regime and rebels to allow food and medical aid into the Palestinian camp of Yarmouk. An estimated 18,000 people are besieged inside the camp as the conflict in Syria continues. (Photo by United Nation Relief and Works Agency via Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA – JANUARY 31: In this handout provided by the United Nation Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Residents wait in line to receive food aid distributed in the Yarmouk refugee camp on January 31, 2014 in Damascus, Syria. The United Nations renewed calls for the Syria regime and rebels to allow food and medical aid into the Palestinian camp of Yarmouk. An estimated 18,000 people are besieged inside the camp as the conflict in Syria continues. (Photo by United Nation Relief and Works Agency via Getty Images)

There is still hundreds of thousands of men, women and children who are seeking peace and a new home.
Syria is most notable war torn country in the news currently; but other places in the world are suffering the same fate year after year; places like Sudan – currently in South Sudan there are more than 600,000 refugees who have fled to the Southern boarders while another 1.5 million people are currently displaced and without a place to call home. (Source: South Sudan Refugee Exodus Continues)

What Can We Do?
How can we help?  We are just soldiers, people, seemingly little in our community…but we are wrong, we do have a voice and must make it heard!
We must continue to give a voice to those who do not have a voice.
We must fight for the powerless, the suffering, the homeless, the refugee, the trafficked sex slaves, the child soldier.
In this current crisis, and crises like it in our world, we must stand against injustice.

In the United States:
Write your state representative or better yet call them
Here is a list of their numbers – Phone Numbers To Call
Urge them to apply pressure to offer more support to the Syrian Refugee Crisis.

In Canada: 
Look up your local/governmental officials and apply pressure to help
Contact Information

In The United Kingdom:
Here are some rather current information as to what is being done in the UK –
FactSheet
But more can be done and you can urge your government officials.

I can’t list all of your wonderful countries here today but I would suggest that where ever you live, you must apply some pressure to your governmental units.  Remind them, urge them to help.  We cannot sit idly by while innocent men, women and children are displaced and are suffering.  Turning a blind eye is a conscious choice to not care.  Don’t allow apathy and selfishness to invade your heart!  Do something!

More resources and information:
The Salvation Army Assists Refugees
The Greek Salvation Army Caring For Refugees
UN Refugee Agency
CNN News Report

Something more to ponder today!

Dear Salvation Army, 3 Things No One Told You About Wearing A Uniform…

Bad luck
The Salvation Army uniform is, for the most part, recognized by many  people (that is unless you happen to be in uniform in an airport).   It’s certainly not the most comfortable thing you’ll ever wear, but it’s certainly not the most uncomfortable either (er pantyhose…nevermind).

I’ve been wearing an army uniform since I was born…I mean since I made a junior soldier.

3 Things No One Told You About Wearing A Uniform: 

1.  Evolution Exists In The Uniform: salvation-boston_0008
The Salvation Army uniform is, or should be, a fluid thing.
If you don’t believe me that there is an evolutionary process to the uniform just look at pictures of our uniforms as early as 1990…things are changing.  Some of us might wish the uniform would change a little faster, but the days of the high collar and the bonnet are gone (cue the sad music and some of you will no doubt pine for days gone by).   The Railton shirts and the Dorcas (maybe a better name could have been suggested) blouses are relatively new editions to our growing uniform.  Perhaps one day the “Patriot” shirt and others might not be limited to only certain times of year but instead may be worn year round…thus the evolving uniform.

obama2.  The Uniform Opens Doors:
Perhaps someone once told you that the uniform opened doors, but you didn’t believe them.  It really does, if you still don’t believe me just wear it traveling sometime and you’ll see.  Some soldiers have joked that they have worn their uniforms to coffee shops and received a military discount.  Besides the occasional discount (which of course isn’t the reason we wear our uniforms) visits to governmental offices and dignitaries tends to go a lot smoother when wearing of our polyester finest.  The uniform can open some doors…not all.  There might be places and occasions where the uniform is not welcome, so bear that in mind too.

3.  In Times Of Crisis, The Uniform Changes Lives:
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All joking aside, moments of crisis do take place around us, and The Salvation Army uniform is recognizable!  After the horrific events of 9-1-1, The Salvation Army’s presence in New York and ground zero was sought out.  Counseling took place for rescue workers and individuals by uniformed Salvationists.  When you wear the uniform, the opportunities to impact lives in crisis increases.  In times like these 1 Peter 3:15 comes to mind; “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…

The Salvation Army uniform is a unique thing.   It can be annoying to wear from time to time but it can also be a witness tool, a blessing and a door opener.  I used to take the use of the uniform rather lightly…there are times that I still grudgingly donn it on, if I am honest.  But the older I get the more I see its vital use within the Salvation Army’s ministry.  I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be changes made in the future to it, but I am saying I hope we don’t simply relegate its use only for Sundays.

Perhaps there are more things that no one told you about wearing The Salvation Army uniform that you would like to share with us.  Comment below, we’d love to hear your responses as well!

Something more for the Army world to ponder today!
To God be the glory!

The Beauty of Faith And Fear Living Together.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?Psalm 27:1 

fear1The truth is, we DO face fear in this life.
The truth is, we DO suffer from paralysis from time to time because of fear.
If we allow fear to take up a permanent place within our hearts, we rob ourselves of experiencing the joys of life that God offers to us.  Fear can only have power if we allow it to have power in us.

That is easier said than done when all of a sudden a moment of crisis takes place and our hearts plummet over that jagged cliff of trepidation and dread.  It is easier said than done when we come to the end of our ropes and we have nothing else to cling to.  It is easier said than done when we exhaust all hope and resource and still we can’t afford to make ends meet.

Fear is real.
But so is faith.

Questions to ponder today: 
Is fear ALWAYS bad?
Is there ever a place for fear?
Does fear ever coexist with faith?

I once heard a phrase that I still struggle with.fear
The phrase was spoken to a group of us in a church meeting once.
It goes like this:  “Faith and fear can’t exist in the same space”
I’m not sure I agree.
Sure, it sounds good on paper and all.
It’s a good mantra to utter in the face of adversity.
But is this saying really true?
I just don’t think it is.
It could be an awesome “battle cry” to rally the troops and help encourage the discouraged…but I think faith and fear sometimes go hand in hand.

I suppose the word fear has to be defined in this conversation.
I think there are varying degrees of fear to think about when we talk about “faith AND fear”.
We don’t want to generalize fear to mean something all encompassing when it comes to “what we are afraid of”, rather I believe the kind of fear that is present within faith is a trepidation rather than a full blown paralyzing fear.  I like one of the definitions of the word “trepidation” because it sort of crystallizes to me how faith and fear can coexist together in us.
The definition I think that fits is this:

‘Trepidation’ – a trembling motion.

To me this means that although we do not know what the future has in store for us, there IS STILL MOTION in us.
It sort of sums up that coined phrase “stepping out in faith” for me.
Although we have said “yes” to Christ and we have made that proclamation to the world around us, there is still the motion that is needed…and within that motion is a trembling.

Perhaps some of us dig deep and that trembling isn’t ever noticeable.
While in the rest of us that trembling aspect of faith is extremely evident.
It is more than mere nervousness of the unknown, it is a moving fear that propels faith to action.
It is more than reverence for God “fear and trembling”, it is an action verb that puts fuel on the fire of our faith.
faith
Do you have fear today? 
If you do have fear, I want to tell you that it is okay.
Don’t ever think that just because you’re fearful that there is something wrong with your faith walk.
Fear CAN exist within faith, and if understood and utilized correctly, it can help us to put feet and movement to our faith!

Something more to ponder today!

Perspectives Day # 4 Featuring Captain Marianneke (Anney) Summerifeld “Family”

familyFamily.  This one word evokes a particular meaning to the reader, doesn’t it?  Something specific.  Something defined. Something wholesome, perhaps?  A television show is “family oriented” or an activity is “family friendly.”  What does it mean to you?  The lines surrounding the definition are not rigid, and they are becoming increasingly fluid.  A traditional, nuclear, family is not what we once pictured it as.  Roles are changing rapidly around us, and if we, as ministers of the Gospel, are to preach the love of Jesus without discrimination, what does that mean and how does that look?

Sure, we are all know that “society is different” and “times they are a-changin’!” – but when things affect you personally, you become all-too aware of where there are lags in our ministry and motivation.

I love my family.  I am daddy’s girl, I look up to my mom, and my siblings have morphed into dear friends.  Growing up, we were the picture of ‘traditional.’ Everything normal, everything happy. In recent years and months, and even as I type, I am suddenly confronted with the idea that normal is changing, and happiness isn’t the be all and end all.  What is? Love.  Love for God and love for others.  Love for our family, however that might look.

Ten years  ago (even five, really), I wouldn’t have been able to define “polyamorous triad,” and if I did know what it meant, I would have never expected it to be a part of my lexicon, not to mention my family story. Never would mentions of divorce and infidelity ever come into mind as being in the realm of possibility.  But you know what?  Life happens.  People change, people grow; and as they grow and change so does our understanding.  I cannot stop loving my loved ones.  I continue to strive to love as Jesus loves, despite bumps along the way.  How can I not?  As an officer, an ordained minister, it’s my calling to share in Jesus’ love.  I have no room to judge or condemn.  Until you experience something yourself, you never know how you will react.

All of that isn’t to say, “hey look at my family, aren’t we a bunch of kooks!,” rather, it is to show that even circumstances thought to be so static and just right “as is” do change and while they change I cannot sit by on the sidelines wondering what to do and letting life pass by.  Should I change with it?

Yes.  And no.

As I write this, I am supposed to be writing my sermon for Mother’s Day.  I was finding verses on being Children of God and what it means to be in His family.  1 John 3:1 reads, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”  Later in 1 John, we read, “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands” (1 John 5:2).  And what are God’s commands? Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

I’m pretty sure changing the Greatest Commandment isn’t a good idea.  Likewise, I shouldn’t seek to change the Gospel just because it might not gel with someone else’s belief system.  But I CAN change my approach. I can change the borders of my understanding as the borders of  family continue to change.  This won’t be easy.  Some might see loving others as endorsement or acceptance of lifestyles contrary to what we see as the Biblical standard. No one is saying we need to water down the message, and loving others doesn’t compromise our own beliefs and doctrine.  We need to look head on at the world around us, literally right beside us.  The growing definition of what family means WILL affect you and your ministry if it hasn’t already.  So the question is: what are we going to do about?

Tell you what, let’s start with love.  I can’t tell you HOW to love and how your ministry to your immediate family, your family of origin, your adopted family, your corps family…(you get the idea) is going to look and how it will work.  Most likely, steps made today will have to change sometime in the future. This is fluid.  Don’t be scared, rather, see this as a challenge – the good kind.  A challenge of loving God and carrying out His commands as best we can.  We will make mistakes, I know I have.  Ah, but remember, if we are jumping headfirst into love and loving others, this also means we are jumping headfirst into forgiveness and grace.  Take my hand; let’s dive together!

(Captain Marianneke (Anney) Summerifeld is the Corps Officer of the Burbank Corps in California.)

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