Dear Salvation Army Officer’s Kids: 5 Survival Tips For Officer Kids Who Are Moving…

Hey fellow ponderers, please allow me this moment to be a little selfish…actually I want to specifically think of my children, and other officer kids out there on the cusp of moving (perhaps once again).   I know that this blog post will not speak to everyone, and not everyone will relate, but please recognize that I have a heart for the kids that these moves effect…because I was once one of them.  I know the hurt of moving, and hopefully, in some small way, I desire to help other Officer kids out there going through another move…

Dear Officer’s Kids: 
I remember vividly the day my parents broke the news to my sister and me that we were being fare-welled.   It struck my heart, my friends, my school, my corps family…everything was about to be uprooted, dislodged and, in my adolescent mind, ruined.  Life as I had known it sucked!  That’s what I thought.  That’s how I felt…and, in some small way, I was angry about it.

My family had spent eight years of our life overseas as missionaries to three separate locations in Southern Africa.  Then when we moved back to America, I had this thought that perhaps we would stay in our “American” appointment for a whole lot longer…but that was not to be, and at that time, I was very sad about the prospects of moving once again.

So we packed up our things, and began the long goodbye that is the farewell process in The Salvation Army.

Let’s face it, moving is never easy.  Your parents can get stressed out, frazzled and downright difficult to live with during this time; But how we view these kinds of transitions can make all the difference in how we face the next place we live.

Here are 5 Survival Tips For Officers Kids Who Are Moving:
(Perhaps, if you can practice these tips, it will be less survival and more thriving in a new opportunity!)

  1. Talk To Your Parents/Parents Talk To Your Child! 
    Mother and Daughter TalkingAsk as many questions as you can about where your parents are being sent.  Start to be inquisitive, and ask about your new school, corps, summer camp?  When we actually talk about the new appointment, or place you’re moving to, it becomes less of an unknown, scary thing, and more of an absolute, tangible ‘new home’.   Keep in mind that talking won’t always be easy.  There will be times when your parents will be stressed or upset too about the move, but keep in mind that families need to stick together and talk about the transition.  Parents: this is SO vital!  As soon as you can, tell your children.  Get them ready for the move.  Also please remember that how you view this move will positively or negatively impact how your child will view this move.  Discuss the pros and cons of moving…don’t neglect that both adults and children will feel a sense of loss, especially if the the current appointment is a place that you’ve been in for a long time!  Talk about what you’re going to miss and also talk about what you’re not going to miss – be honest and sensitive to what your child/children are saying.
  2. View Moving As An Adventure & Use What’s Familiar!
    Young Man Traveler with backpack relaxing outdoorMy parents helped my sister and me in this important topic by showing us the adventure that awaited us.  Now I know that there are some who are reading this and may be thinking to yourself, ‘It’s not always so joyful when we move’, and you’re right; but the more we can begin to view moving as an adventure, the more we can begin (and help our children begin) to adjust to a semi-transitory lifestyle.I recall knowing people who have lived in one place for their entire life, and I can’t even begin to understand that, but I don’t envy it either.  As I look back at the ‘Army’ life that I have lived, both growing up and now as an adult, I see all of the life lessons that I’ve had the opportunity to learn.  I also have experienced a broader world view than if my family had just stayed in one location for my whole life.  This adventure has taken me to live in different cultural places, I have learned different local customs of many regions, and because of it I feel like my life is more rounded.O the places you will go…and the places you will see as an Officer’s Kid!

    To Parents and Kids:  Start talking about the adventure…then live the adventure!  It can be easy to always look back and miss where you once lived, but if you look back the whole time, you will miss the adventure that you’re about to step through in the next appointment.  Find the fun in life.  View the new place that you’re about to live with a sense of fun and adventure.  Coupled with the new adventure, set up your rooms and homes with the familiar so that where ever you go, Home looks and feels the same – this is the ‘safe ground’, the sanctuary, the ‘fortress of solitude’ and the family first environment!  Bring your familiar blankets, pillows, posters, decorations…etc.

  3. Research, Explore & Google Places To See In Your New Home Townexplore
    We all have smart phones, computers and tablets, so use them to not only check out your new home, but all of the fun places around your new home.  Check out apps like Google, TripAdvisor, Zomato Yelp…etc to find new and exciting places to eat, explore and visit when you arrive at your new appointment.  Make plans to check out those places – and then do it!It can be fun to use your google maps to literally view the street your house is on and then go for an interactive ‘drive’ down the street through that app.  As you do this, you will start to envision yourself there.  It will never take the place of where you are living right now, or the places you’ve been, but it will certainly add to your life’s adventure!  Think of it as the next chapter, but you will never, ever replace the last chapter…it just becomes a wonderful part of your life’s book!
  4. Find Activities To Get Involved In Right Away In Your New School!
    activitiesWhen you move to your new home, (and here’s the BIG, frightening step of faith you should take:)  find activities that you are interested at your new school and/or community that you can become involved in.  Don’t wait for a year to jump into it, do it right away…trust me on this!I know some of you might be introverts at heart and you’ll want to stick close to home and ‘play it safe’, but try to push yourself to get out get involved!

    When I was a kid, I loved sports, and so when we moved I joined the soccer team and the track team.  By the time school actually started, I already knew people at my new school because they were friends from soccer.  I made it a point to get involved.  It wasn’t easy…and there were days that my stomach just churned with anxiety about being the ‘new guy’, but I pushed myself, and my parents gently pushed me too.

    That’s the key too parents:  your kids are stronger that we sometimes think they are.  They will thrive if we get them out there and involved in activities.  I’m not saying don’t allow them their down time at home, but don’t let them settle into unhealthy – isolating cocoons either!   Help them find activities that they are interested in within your new appointment and plug them into those activities.  When we can help our children find these healthy sources, they will develop friendships and become invested in this new adventure!

  5. Stay Positivepositive
    I’m not going to lie to you.  There will be days when you will sorely miss the place that you just came from.  There will be days that you will be tempted to withdraw from your new place and quit…don’t.  Families need to stick together during this ‘mourning’ phase of moving.  Emphasize the positives…look for the bright side and the opportunities.They say that life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to things – so attitude is VERY important in these transitions!If your new school stinks, then perhaps you can find one friend to enjoy the stink with at that school.

    If your corps is not the best place to be, then perhaps you can find a small corner of it to make it your own despite the circumstances.

    Officers Kids and Parents:  How we act towards one another matters.  Be an encourager to each other.  Don’t go negative and only focus on what you hate about this new place.  Sure, talk about those things, but don’t stay there – find the silver lining and when you do, you will find hope and joy despite the ups and downs of these transitory circumstances.

Kids:  You got this!
You are resilient, smart, amazing people!  Help your parents, and remember we aren’t alone in this!  Officers kids are band of brothers and sisters and we can do anything we set our minds to!  Let’s stick together!

Parents:  Keep speaking truth, love and joy into your kids.  Be patient with them…and at times go easy on them!  Encourage them to be active, and show them what it means to live this Officer life…live the adventure with them!

Something more for This Army world to ponder!
May God richly bless on your move!

If It’s Not Broke…Then Break It.

There is a problem with our self-reliance.
Independence is a great thing, but are we independent from God?
Do we only require God’s help when it gets tough and we use God like a panic button?
The problem with self-reliance isn’t about having too much control, it’s about the willful choice of not surrendering.

what?
But isn’t surrendering a sign of weakness?

Not when it comes to surrendering to God.
He desires it.
Longs for it.
Yet, so few of us ACTUALLY surrender ourselves completely to Him.

Did you know that only reason Christianity spread so far and wide in the Acts church is because they were shattered and scattered?   Act chapter 8 records the shattering of the church as Saul persecutes Christ-followers.  Before he becomes Paul, he plays this vital role of breaking… broken

Without the breaking we don’t have a gospel message that goes far and wide.
Still today, without the breaking, I fear our witness becomes far too comfortable and contained…so much so that Satan doesn’t have to worry about us anymore.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t long for the breaking…no one ever truly longs for such a time, but sometimes it is needed.

Could there be a need of breaking in your life right now?
Have you become comfortable in your faith or church or current state of life right now?
God desires our full surrender, and unfortunately, sometimes the only way for us to become fully committed and surrendered to Him is to be broken…to be shattered again.

What needs to be broken in your life in order for you to grow spiritually again?
What must you surrender to God in order to truly live for Him?
My fear in this time and era of the Church is that there are far too many Christians comfortably numb to the moving of the Holy Spirit.  I am afraid that many churches and Christians in the Western world are asleep and unaware of what God longs to do.

We have to WAKE UP.
We have to be shattered and broken again.
Without this, I am unsure if any of us will truly know the freedom of living by faith in God’s grace…because we haven’t invested or stepped beyond what we are comfortable with.  Did you catch that?

What WE are comfortable with.
There is no inclusion of His presence in that statement.
It’s all about what WE feel, and what WE want, and what WE can get from it…
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God,
SHATTER me again.
Lord,
BREAK me.

May it be our desire to be fully surrendered.
Not in our own time and convenience.
Not because we have nothing better to do, or we “freed up” some time in our schedules.
BUT, because it’s what God desires from us.
FULL and COMPLETE Surrender.

Father,
Break us again.

AMEN.

Devotional: “The Lifter Of My Head”

I have been there.  yell
That moment of shame.  That place of embarrassment.  It’s not a fun place to be, in that moment of red-faced, head-hanging sadness.  Perhaps it happens when you let words fly that were sharp as razor blades and those blades struck deep into the heart of someone you love…and all you wished that you could do was reel them back or reverse time and stop yourself from such utterances.  Perhaps it happened in the way you shouted at someone in a fit of road rage while driving…and your kids were in the car, and they saw you in a moment of absurd immaturity and hot-headedness.

I have traveled to those destinations, and I would pay anything never to return.
Perhaps you have traveled to these shameful places too.  The real question is, do we admit them to others and ourselves, or do we play it off as if it never happened and hope that the people we care for will also forget?

Then there are other moments when other people have shamed us, other events where we were made to look like fools and our tormentors were spiteful and cruel…and their harsh words dug it’s sharp blades into our very hearts…and now we’re wounded.  We carry around this hurt wherever we go, and we hang our heads in shame because of it.

Dear fellow ponderers, let me encourage you today.
If we sincerely seek to be forgiven, then God will forgive.
If we sincerely seek to be released from our hurt, God will provide the salve and healing.

Psalm 3:3 says, “But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.

May God lift your heads today.
May we recognize that God wants for us to lift up our hearts and our heads to Him, and that we no longer have to live with the shame and guilt any longer.  He wants to come to us and to heal us.  He longs to make the wrongs – right and to fellowship with us, while replacing or shame and hurt with victory and joy.  The real question is – are we prepared to allow Him to lift our heads, or will we continue to go it alone all the while making our own feeble attempts at strength?

Prayer:  
Dear Lord, lift my head today.  Thank You for restoring me so that I can have that right relationship with You!  Forgive me for the shame I have caused in my life, and heal me of the hurts others have caused in my heart.  Remind me of Your purposes for my life.  Grant me Your eyes to see others around me, and also remind me of how You see me.  Thank You Lord for your presence with me today.   -Amen.

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.
waiting3
“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
waiting5
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.
waiting6
Something more to ponder today.
God Bless you!  

Walking at Midnight on the path of restlessness.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

I have another confession to make – I am restless…like pit of my stomach-aching restlessness.  Some days I can put my finger on it, while other days it is as elusive as an honest thief.  I am usually successful at pushing it back down, repacking that box that it lives in and stowing it away in that shadowy corner that I seldom travel to.  Still, I know it’s there…and it weighs on me as if an elephant had decided to perch its rotund bottom on my chest.

I wonder if you feel this way sometimes?
Do you have to push it back down as well?
Do you have to re-tape that worn-out box and pretend that dark corner doesn’t even exist?  Does it keep you up at night – blinking at the ceiling fan, counting the rotation of its blades as shadows dance off reflections of streetlights lit only for 3rd shift workers and insomniacs out for a stroll?  I repress the urge to join them, to open the front door and walk barefooted down the now cooled, uneven sidewalks as I imagine myself trying to avoid the spiny round pods that fall haphazardly from the large gum tree in our front yard.   I have stepped on these awful spiky seeds a time or two while walking barefoot down our path and even in the cool darkness of the night thoughts of the surprise pain causes me to recoil my feet from the lower spaces of my bed.

I wonder if David ever felt this way?  The pre-murder and adulterous David…the one that tended sheep and slew predators to the flock.  I wonder if he ever felt restless in his heart?  I am sure he did when, later he was being pursued by jealous King Saul and his men.  As David hid from cave to cave and village to village, I imagine him laying down on an uncomfortable uneven floor hoping to rest his weary head.  I can picture his deep sadness as he yearned for his best friend Jonathan.  Yet David trusted in God…but I would venture a guess that there were moments in which he was restless and he too had to push it back down and re-tape his box.

It is said that there is a season for everything…and yet Jesus told the people of his day not to worry about anything, yet I can’t help but find myself in the season of worry from time to time.  Doe that mean that I am not heeding His words?  That, despite my best efforts, I am not trusting in Him?  Perhaps you have thought this also> I worry, but Jesus said not to, and here I am still worrying.<  What do we do with these seasons?  How do we find the glimmers and glints of hope in the mess of our minds?  Sometimes we do believe the lie.  What lie you ask?  The lie that Jesus wasn’t really talking to us when He said those things, that it was just for the disciples and people around Him right then and there… The lie that we are broken people beyond fixing, and that the restlessness that we feel in the pits of our stomachs and the weight of our hearts is what we deserve for being fallen, sinful people.

Don’t live there.
Don’t wallow in that muck and believe that damning lie.
The son who turned his back on his father and spent his entire inheritance on partying, prostitutes and comfort found himself feeding muddy, fetid pigs.  Day in and day out he was covered in mud and pig excrement.  He definitely smelled as bad as they did.  He had lost everything – squandered a small fortune on foolish, regrettable things, and the stink of his life went much deeper than clothes and skin.  He lived there.  He wallowed there.  That pen of stench became his home for a period of time, until he came to senses.  As Jesus told this story of prodigal son, I imagine some who were listening felt that he was telling their story.  The prodigal son came to his senses, got up and devised a plan to return to his father.  He formulated a plan in his mind, he believed he would be unwelcome to return as a son, but maybe, just maybe his father would let him return as a servant.  Can you imagine that restless journey home; The endless loop of things he would finally say to his father in order to stave off the reprisals and chastisements?  As each dusty step led him closer and closer to the home he once knew, thoughts of doubt and fear must have crept in.  “Master, just let me work for you.” (For surely he would never be worthy to call him father after what he did).

And when this beaten-by-life man, who had squandered everything and had hit absolute rock-bottom crested that last hill, and his home was in view…he saw someone running towards him.  Perhaps it was a servant instructed to chase him off.  Perhaps it was a warning not to come any closer…he would have deserved such a welcome.  Instead, it wasn’t any of those things…it was his father that he had wished were dead, running to embrace the son he thought he had lost.

Don’t live in the home of restlessness.
Don’t believe the lie of shame and guilt.
Be forgiven, let your Father embrace you and welcome you home…and when you are finally hope, re-tape that box and then throw it away.

The prodigal son is me.
The prodigal son is you.
But once we have been embraced,
once we have witness our Father running to us,
Once we have been forgiven and returned to our home (where we belong)
don’t even entertain the lie or the box any longer.

But sometimes…we still walk at midnight, say hello, I’ll be waving.

Something more to ponder today.

Dear Salvation Army, Where Are We Going?

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” -Michelangelo

This is more of a collective pondering today. We need your comments, thoughts and opinions in order to carefully and thoughtful answer the above question: Where Are We Going?

What is our vision?

What should our vision be?

How do we make that vision a reality?

What are some of the obstacles in our way of fully realizing that reality?

Who will it take (e.g. soldiers, officers, volunteers, donors)?

How important is accountability in such a large movement/organization?

How can we become more accountable to Christ within this Army? Where does Holiness belong in such a conversation?

I have disclosed numerous questions to ponder today…are you willing to take a chance at answering any or all of these questions? The larger scope question: Where Are We Going? In other words, if you were to envision where the Army SHOULD BE in 20 years, what would it look like? What would you want to see different, the same, the growth?

-If we have no plan or vision, then we will flounder and waver.

We look forward to your responses!

Something more for the Army to ponder today!

Vision without execution is hallucination.” – Thomas Edison

*Disclaimer: the thoughts and opinions represented here do not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of The Salvation Army and are that of the writer of this blog, reader discretion is advised.*

The Art of Letting Go…

I must confess that I am not very good at this yet.
I still clutch with white knuckles and cling with all my might as if this is what God has called me to do.  Embarrassingly,  I sometimes internally kick and scream when I don’t get my way like a rageful, tantrum seeking kindergartner.  I am no good at letting go.

I have become a professional “holder-on”.
A legacy protector…I have become too good at preserving that which is dead instead of believing in resurrection, a new way and innovation.  (it takes pain and awareness to realize that, like the disciples staring up into the clouds at an ascended Jesus, I too must get on with life and mission)

Words echo in my brain like “Be still and know that I am God…” when all along I am anything but still.  I am a turbulent storm, a freakishly fast flowing river.  I am a cacophony of thought and ceaseless effort.  Could it be that in my many ventures and efforts I have become effortless? (and not the good kind of ‘effortless’)  Ineffective?  Static?  Something about beating a dead horse or the definition of insanity…could this sum up my effortless-efforts?  Is this just evidence of works without faith?  Is this what preserving legacies instead blazing trails looks like?  After all, the disciples didn’t build a monument marking the exact location of Christ’s ascension into heaven; They didn’t remain in that place for the rest of their lives; They didn’t build this ‘holy shrine of ascension’  and preserved His memory… No!  They had to let go of that place.  They were reminded by two white robed figures, who suddenly appeared before them:  As they were straining their eyes for another glimpse, suddenly two white-robed men were standing there among them, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing here staring at the sky? Jesus has gone away to heaven, and some day, just as he went, he will return!” Acts 1:10-11

This reminder sparked action in the disciples – forward movement while at the same time they had to let go of the Jesus they had walked with and studied under.  They had to let go of the laughter and the tears of their past journey, because the present road was waiting for them.  It was their time to move forward, but they had to first let go – of their former identities, of their former disciple status.  They had to let go.

let go andThe old phrase, which I have made fun of, it is posterized, monetized, and placed on car bumper stickers…yet in my present context the truth is no less poignant.  What phrase you ask?  “Let go and let God”…before you toss that phrase away and chalk it up to one more Christianese marketing ploy, let me expound:
In order for us to exercise faith with our actions…we have to let go.
-We have to let go of our own academic efforts.
-We have to let go of our own ingrained realizations and understandings.
-We have to let go of our presuppositions and some of our Sunday school lessons.
-We have to let go of our “I’ll go in my own strength” – I got this, and I don’t need anyone else’s help.
-We have to let go of our own understanding…and in all our ways acknowledge Him. (Proverbs 3:6)

We have to…I have to let go…and yet sometimes I imagine myself being that lowly disciples still staring at the clouds despite the words of the alien-angelic figures who visited us.  I am still plodding on into life with the old ways when God has given me a new means of life, a new mission, a new purpose…and I’m still trying to do it in my own strength.  I still need to let go, and yes, let God lead instead of me…how about you?
Do you still have a dead-grip on the reins of your life?  Do you have trouble putting feet to your faith? It’s time stop staring up at an ascended Christ and time to live for Him.

So…I’m letting go.

 

Tackling the “S” Word…

I remember dropping a friend off at their home after school when I heard about the suicide-death of Kurt Cobain – lead singer of Nirvana.  I just couldn’t believe it.  As a fan, I thought he had it all.  Sure, there had been stories about his drug issues…but as a senior in high school, I couldn’t fathom someone of his stature taking his own life.  Later on, I remember reading the words of Kurt’s mother, Wendy O’Connor as she grieved she declared, “I told him not to join that stupid club…”

That stupid club?  – all of those other musicians and stars who partied hard and died young.   Their stories litter pop culture like spots on a Jackson Pollock painting.
Linkin Park concert
And then we have Chester Bennington, the iconic voice of Linkin Park, highly regarded as one of the best (if not THE best) rock voices of his era – Ending it all in what appears to be another sad story in the annals of music history.  How so very tragic.  Chester leaves behind six children and many who are simply floored in grief over his sudden death.

NO EASY WORDS: 



There is nothing that can be said to bring peace to the families of those who choose to end their lives.  Depression, drug abuse, life’s pressures have affected many, and some believe that they just can’t go on living.  If anyone has ever been in that deep of a depression, you will know that the mind is not working the way it should and suicide seems to be the only way out.

I am not defending the actions of one who chooses to end their life in such a way, I am merely trying to grapple with the loss that is felt when someone dies.  Suicide is never the solution and yet we cannot know what someone is struggling with and how lost they might feel.  All we can do is be available and to show love and support to those who are hurting.

Perhaps the best method in coping is NOT to express anger as Korn Guitarist Brian Welch (known as ‘Head’)  has done as he shared his frustration and criticized Chester saying it was ‘the cowardly way out’.   We may have similar opinions and frustrations.  Welch went on to say (for those who actually read the rest of what he had to say and didn’t just slam him) he knows all too well the struggles of depression and getting “wasted”…Welch, expressed his frustration and anger – yet there is something to his expression that seems understandable – He was friends with Chester.

Suicide Sucks!
There are people who are left behind when anyone dies in such a way.
Many people sent out shock and condolences, OneRepublic tweeted out; “Dear God.  Massive RIP to Chester Bennington of @linkinpark This BREAKS OUR HEART.  Suicide is the devil on earth walking amonst us.

Children are left without a father.
Mothers and Fathers without a son…and the list goes on.
I won’t go too far to say that suicide is selfish…(even if it is).
Many who choose to end their life are in the deepest places of grief, depression and they are not always in the right place mentally.  It simply hurts…

If you have ever contemplated suicide – please, please, please don’t!!!
You are loved!
You do matter!
Life is worth living, if you can just hang on a little longer!

Please seek out help!
Counselors and friends are available, you just need to ask.

I have done funerals for families who have lost loved ones to suicide.
Suicide sucks!  It leaves vacuum in the hearts of many…and they wonder if they could’ve done something prevent it from happening.  I, don’t have all of the answers, but I do know that there is a God of grace who cares about your life and the lives of those who contemplate suicide. Be respectful, hopeful, and offer love and support to loved ones around you who might be struggling today.

-Just a thought.

Other Sources to check out:
You Cannot Be Replaced
Suicide Prevention
Text Hotline
Help Guide

Loving Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder

Robin Williams Article

Dear Salvation Army: Serving Water and Cookies at Gay Pride Parade…

First of all, I have to tell you that I am very reluctant to ponder anything on this topic because it seems to be quite the hot button topic, and as of late many harsh things have been said from various perspectives.  I offer you this pondering as simply an objective observer and I will do my very best to present both sides of the conversation.  My approach to this pondering has, and always will be with grace and love…okay, here goes:

Recently on social media, The Salvation Army in Metro Chicago (in conjunction with CFOT) posted photos of Salvationists serving refreshments to people while they participated in the gay pride parade in the Wrigleyville/Boystown area of Chicago.

serveThe Facts…
What began 15 years ago as a means to offer kindness and grace to pride participants, has in some ways become quite a polarizing topic.  The location of the College for Officers Training in Chicago is directly in a predominantly gay and alternative lifestyle community.  Thus, this is the neighborhood Cadets and members of the CFOT staff do evangelism within.  Sadly though, on social media conversation threads, individuals have criticized and questioned the motives of those who distributed the water and cookies.  Some have asked, “Does serving these items mean that The Salvation Army is now condoning or accepting these alternative lifestyles?”  While others who are on the other end of the ideological range are simply flabbergasted by harsh comments and the overall sense of harsh criticism.

Questions to Ponder…
Does this type of event, which offers water and cookies, condone alternative lifestyles or is this simply an act of kindness and grace?  Is this, as some have angrily inferred, just another way for progressives to push this agenda of acceptance, or are we in need of more of these intentional, public acts of kindness to ALL people from ALL walks of life?

The Murky Waters…
The current position of The Salvation Army on the topic of Same-sex attraction and/or marriage is fairly common, but in a number of places in the Army the views on LGBT seems to be a murky water of ambiguity and inconsistency.

My Take…
We must be very careful not to become finger pointers and look down our noses like the Pharisees did in Jesus’ day.   They (the Pharisees) even witnessed Jesus’ disciples picking grain on Sabbath and about lost their ever-lovin’ minds.  The key, before any kind of discerning thought of judgement should be to soberly consider the state of our own hearts first.

Secondly, I think we as a Church (or Movement)  can be so quick to criticize without first trying to understand and ask the important questions.  We are far too quick to jump to conclusions and slow to consider what we might do in our own communities to provide such acts of kindness to the whosoever.

Lastly, how do we convey the grace of God to those we meet?  Are we to throw our bibles at people who do not live as we do by quoting scripture AT them?  Or do we show compassion, hope and grace to anyone who is willing to receive it?  Is there an intersecting line here that cannot be crossed?  Where does compassion and acts of kindness end and acceptance of lifestyle begin?  Is there a place when we might become stronger together instead of divided (division is perhaps what Satan would love to see in our Army)?  If so, how do we get to this point of unity within our courageous acts of compassion?

Conversely, how do we approach family?
By this I mean – I know Officers in The Salvation Army who have children who are either gay or in an alternative lifestyle.  How do we approach family in this context?  We (as people) can be so quick to assume that this subject is black and white, but it is much more complicated than that!  How we convey compassion and grace has to be wisely consider for fear of alienating our families and loved ones.

I know that this topic is a rather complicated and sensitive one, and can cause polarizing opinions and often brings out the worst in people, but please do not use this pondering as fodder for your case.  Our army is much broader than any one person’s view, opinion or agenda.  But here’s my take – Let’s err on the side of grace and compassion and leave the judgement to the One who will eventually judge us all.  Let’s support one another’s ministries including ministries into alternative lifestyle neighborhoods.  Let’s offer support to officers and staff who strive to live out the “without discrimination” from our mission statement.  Let us strive to live out holiness in how we love and serve in our neighborhoods and mission fields.  From this place, the Lord can and will impart His wisdom and guidance.

-Something more for our Army to ponder today.

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