The Death of a Fallow Prayer Life…

But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” John 4:14

I was cleaning our kitchen yesterday.
With four children this is almost an everyday occurrence. If not, dishes tend to pile up and creates a chaotic leaning tower of Pisa sort of mess. Anyway, I digress…As I was washing off dishes and putting them into our dishwasher, I looked up at the windowsill and noticed our non-thriving plants. They were all dead. We might make excuses about these dead plants. Perhaps we might say that they are simply dormant in the winter. Or maybe they just needed to be pruned back for the season. A few more excuses come to mind, but in reality these plants are simply dead. They were once promising green, thriving plants in pots and sun lamps. Many on the cusp of producing some sort of fruit or vegetable. Yet, due to our travel schedule and our lack of green thumbs, they have shriveled up and were husks of their former living selves.

I am reminded that this is a living parable (pun intended)…for myself. I feel as if the Lord teaches us through the world around us – like my plant pots holding dead things in them. Caskets containing death instead of nourished soil of growth. I am drawn to this life lesson. It is something simplistic and yet stark in its reminder to me. For I am sometimes this casket containing death, when I should be a vessel containing life.

Image result for desert land


In my prayer life…
My un-uttered words.

Image result for dried cracked lips male


my parched lips and forgotten promises to God.
My prayer life can look like husks of its former self.
Dried up.
Dehydrated out of lack of spiritual water and nourishment.
Neglected and empty.

How many times have I forgotten to go back to the Living Water?

Image result for dying of thirst

How many times have I gotten so busy in the concerns, fears, transitions and schedules of life that I have simply left my conversations to God to go fallow life I harvested fields? And before I know it, the once rich, dark vibrant soil is now cracked and as dry as bones in a desert. From this neglect enters apathy, harsh words spoken out of frustration and shallow roots.

Have you stood on this fallow ground?
Is this you? I know that I have found my shamed identity here.
what are the conversations that you have neglected with God? He desires to nourish your life again.
He longs to shine on the soul-soil and help you grow once more.

For me?
I am convicted here.
I find myself licking my parched, cracked lips in longing for that Living Water once more. I feel the guilt and shame of leaving Him out of my life…and I must seek Him out again. I must return to His living water and replenish my mind, body, soul.

Prayer:
Dear Lord, create in me a clean heart once more.
Renew in my a right spirit again.
Re-hydrate my broken, crumble soil.
I long to find rest and rejuvenation in you anew.
Re-ignite your passion and compassion in me.
Take away the casket of death and flood my heart with life and love.
Here I am, spark in me the joy of your salvation once again.
Lord, bring your Living Waters once more.

Something more to ponder today.
Be Blessed and thrive not just survive!

Dear Salvation Army, 3 Smart Strategies To Army Mission…

Dear Salvation Army Soldier & Friends, our mission doesn’t exist without those that push the mission and strive to see it succeed!  Without soldiers and friends working so tirelessly together in an effort to meet human need in Jesus’ name, we will fail and our efforts will be in vain.  With that being said, we serve more than just the army ranks.  For officers come and officers go, and our appraisal of those wearing red may increase or decrease depending on the character of each.  But collectively we are the army.  But without Christ at the head of our army we will be without direction and hope.

It is my prayer that we keep our eyes ever on Christ as we dole out our policy and mission steps in our world.  Dare I say that there have been times when policy and administrative decisions have not made sense and/or were not made with Christ in mind at all.  Such moments in our history, I would hope are few and far between and I am instead given over to the notion that we ought to pray for each and every leader that is appointed to lead this Army.  I cannot imagine the enormity of such a mantel, yet it is thrust on many who would deem themselves quite unworthy of it.  But, beware to those who think they deserve such a mantel, even power and leadership in our army can corrupt.  So pray in earnest for one another so that we do not fall into such a temptation of pride, ego and personal ambition.

Here are three smart primer strategies to our Army mission.  There are more subtopics and conversations to be had within this pondering…after you read these starting points, why not tell us what YOU think and what we can add to this list!

1.  Leaders – listen to the “Boots on the ground!”  

bootsI cannot stress how important it is for leaders of all positions to listen to those who are actively engaged on the ground in the fight!

There are certainly Church roles that we possess in our movement, some are appointed and gifted in: administration, some in pastoring, some evangelism…and so on, yet we all must do our very best within the positions that we have been given to glorify God and to edify and encourage each other!  Leaders who simply dictate and dole out policy but rarely listen to the boots on the ground will eventually be resented and our mission will become bogged down.  Take the time to listen to those who see the need every day!  Sometimes we as leaders have to have the guts to admit when the plan we plotted isn’t working and perhaps there is a better, more effective way.  Swallow your pride and adapt!  This goes for every position of leadership from the corps setting all the way up!

savesWe cannot afford to have polarizing visions when we should all be seeking to remain mission minded and focused.  There’s no time for that!   Leaders who listen and then lead have a better chance at successfully navigating and accomplishing their objectives in mission!  If leaders only dictate from their offices that are tucked away from mission we will fail because administration can only meet mission when it has its ear to the ground and a heart to serve in the capacity of servant-leader.    Enough with the old guard of “my way or the highway” brass!  Yes be strict on mission-mindedness but compassionate on leading and shepherding!  Be a shepherd first and listen!

2.  Boots on the ground – Pray for and love your leaders, trust them and then engage in the spiritual warfare while befriending the lost!  

do

There’s no time to jostle about and deciding which leader you will follow or trust.  There is too much at stake, too much to lose in forward progress as an army!  If we spend too much time worrying about the internal workings of our army, we will lose sight of those we are entrusted to serve and love!  Bring the mission of the lost into focus – make it your priority to keep this mission going!  Be the gate keepers of Hell so that no one slips by you and into that place of ultimate depravity!  Stand as the bridge builder who brings hope to your community!  Worry less about what others (even leadership) might think and more about what God might think with our inactions!  Get on with it!!  Fight on and be the voice for those without one.  The very progression of our army depends upon the movement of these vital infantry boots!  You will stand knee deep in the muck and mire of people’s sin and sadness.  You will witness the hopeless single mother who is struggling to put food on the table, or the children who come to your program that you know are currently living in awful places and conditions.  You must take action!

Love those who lead you.  Trust that God has placed them there to help you accomplish this mission together!  Pray for each other and for those who will come knocking on your door in search of help!  We cannot progress the good news of Jesus Christ and bring hope to a dying world if we are not first Holy people who are taking up our crosses and following Him!  We cannot look like the world and act like the world.  We are set apart to do mighty things, we cannot lack anything especially faith that God will pave this path for us!

3.  Look outside “The Bubble”!  

bubble

Lastly, do not get bogged down in your own bubble that you become ignorant of how God might be working in our world!  Be in-tune with Him!  Do not live in your corps buildings and your Divisional or territorial offices and forget to peer out the windows and walk the streets!  God is not static and He does not want us to become static!  Look beyond what we have already accomplished!  Don’t just maintain and do the same things over and over again especially if these things (or programs) are not bringing people to Christ any longer! Explore, study, become students of knowledge and strategy!  Read!!  There is this notion that any organization and mission can become so internal that it’s almost incestuous in developing its methods of mission, evangelism and mission.  Break this mold!  Take risks, and don’t be afraid to fail – even a hundred times (or more)!   We cannot live in our Army bubbles and expect people to come to us!  We have to go to them!  We have to think outside the box (or corps).  We have to stop living in the past or the glory days all the while missing countless opportunities to make history and break new ground!  If we expect revival we have to make revolution happen in our army!

pop I think sometimes what keeps us in our bubbles is the fear of what leadership might do if we try new things that don’t necessarily “look Army”.  Is there fear of reprisal and punishment for not maintaining the status quo?  Perhaps it’s time to pop the bubble!
Perhaps it’s time to refocus and realign our motives and mindsets on the mission of this world-wide movement!  But we cannot do that unless we become risk-takers and break the bubble comfort and tradition.
help
Something more for this Army to Ponder…now, tell us what YOU think by leaving comments and questions below or in your discussion feed!  I can’t wait to hear from you!

*Disclaimer:  The thoughts and opinions written on Pastorsponderings are not necessarily the thoughts and expressed opinions of The Salvation Army, reader discretion is advised!*

“Hello…there you are!!” – Featuring Captain Shanais Strissel

Thorns1

Look at this picture of thorny weeds; imagine living in it- right there in the middle of that ugly, painful nest of flesh tearing barbs.  Imagine yourself moving around in there and trying to lay down at night, attempting to get comfortable enough to sleep.

Nope, not going to happen, right? There is no way to move without drawing blood, ripping flesh, crying out in pain- so you remain still, immobile, stagnant…stuck.

Now imagine this:
prune 2

And we clear away all of the thorns and weeds and we find this

flower 3

or this
seed 4

We find freedom from entrapment, a cool soft breeze, sunlight shining on our face, weight lifted, pain relieved and cool, soothing water running along our roots.

Space to breathe

Space to stretch our long achy limbs

Space to let the wounds heal

So what do thorns and weeds and flowers and seeds and space have to do with – anything?

LIFE, they have to do with life and the representation of struggle, pain, agony and victory.

So, imagine with me for a moment that we all start out as a

Seed

This little seed has been gifted with potential…potential to thrive and grow and stretch into what God has encoded into its DNA to be, whether it’s a rose or an great oak tree…the potential to be

More,

To be beautiful,

To be unique…

And we are all born into families; families of other unique seeds that have already grown… but the problem comes when someone has come along and planted a bunch of weeds into the mix.

Parents are tasked with the immense responsibility of nurturing their children, their little seeds of great potential, right?

They are there to tend the soil, remove weeds, cut back unwanted growth, provide food and water and a safe environment for constant focused growth into the mighty image that we are meant to embrace- to find joy and strength and endurance alongside capable hands.

 

But what happens when our parents plant

Weeds

What happens when your parents only know what life among the thorns is like because that is all they have known and now they are planting weeds in yours?

What about if you go back generations and you see nothing but acres of weeds in your family lineage?

Years of abuse, neglect, bad habits, addictions and on and on and on…all of this baggage serves to cover and hide our identity, our potential to reflect the image of God in our own unique way.

What happens now?

Well, we can’t weed the garden ourselves- it would simply turn us into a bloody, pulpy mess- we simply can’t see where we are going in the midst of that mess.

We could just sit and do nothing, which would leave us to become more sad, angry and embittered to our world and leaving us to pass on our own brand of thorns.

Or,

We could desire

Any change starts with a desire to be different, to see things different, to want more out of life than we have been handed, to be more AWARE of the world around us.

It is to recognize that the weeds aren’t good for us and to desire to get the hell out of there, literally speaking to get the Hell out of our lives – that’s the noun not the verb.

When we acknowledge the thorns are there, and desire to see them gone – that’s when real life starts.  God starts clearing the thorns and weeds for us.  He takes on our pain, our agony, our bloody wounds and gives us peace in place of pain.

Does this mean it will be an easy journey? No. Sorry to say it but getting rid of the thorns and weeds forces us to face our own truths and it’s painful but that is the only road to freedom.  The amazing thing is that we don’t walk a solitary journey; God clears the correct path and leads us to freedom and on the road to revelation.

Our true selves are discovered on that journey one root, one branch, one flower, one petal one leaf at a time until the entire beautiful, magnificent, amazingly unique plant is revealed. Well hello, there you are…

by SLS

Dear Pastors, Authentic Joy Can Inspire Your Congregation!

sleepThe Pastor looked tired.
He gets up to preach the message and delivers an impassioned four point sermon with colorful illustrations and “all the fixin’s”…still no one comes forward to altar.  He starts to doubt his abilities to lead people to Christ.  He starts to grow frustrated and restless in his calling.  He looks out at his church congregation and believes most are just without “ears to hear” and have settled into Christian mediocrity.

What’s wrong with this picture?
It seems like some sort of fictional story and yet this is not so uncommon among pastors today.
Many pastors get out of seminary and believe that they will make a difference…and most will.  Most Pastors are prepared for the fray, and for “ministry life”.  Yet, as reality sets in, the risk many might face is disillusionment, ministry fatigue, and a loss of mission.

The problem that I have with the above illustration is two-fold: 
1) It’s all about the Pastor.  me
We pastors and ministers of this amazing grace can often get it wrong or backwards.
It’s not about us, it never was.
It’s not about how awesome we are, or how contemporary or traditional we are…it isn’t about how much media we utilize on a Sunday morning either.  Oh, and it’s also not about how amazing our worship band is or isn’t.  These are all surface things.

Dare I say that we as Pastors can begin to have an ego problem.
We call the shots, we make the executive orders, we plan the service and we preach that sermon that our congregation needs to hear each Sunday morning.  Is it easy to miss the point of “Church”?  You bet it is.  Especially when it becomes all about the Pastor.

This is a real danger, so be aware of its beckoning ego-centric call! 

2) The authentic joy is vacant in the Pastor’s life & ministry.  bored
The second problem I see in the uninspired ministry goes hand in hand with the last issue.
If it’s all about us and our ministry team, we run the risk of displaying that misaligned vision to our congregations.  And when we “put up a front” and paint this perfect picture for them, they see right through it. It’s like that elementary teacher who is terrified of elementary students…those kids just know when the teacher is scared to death.

Authentic joy cannot be faked.
People, especially our congregation, will know and see through inauthentic fakery.
It doesn’t matter how flowery your sermon is…
It doesn’t matter how “on point” the worship band was this Sunday…
It doesn’t matter if you have everything right on the bulletin this Sunday…
IF you aren’t authentic and you’re just going through the motions, it will be more evident than you think.

What I’m not saying today:
I’m not saying that we have to be Happy all the time – I know that it’s just not possible to put on a happy face when things are far from happy in your church.
I’m not saying that we have to perpetually seek joy and happiness for our church members either.

What I am saying is this: 
Authenticity, in every season is a hard commodity to come by all the time.
I have preached those sermons.
I have lived that illustration.
I have been there.

So how do we recapture that Authentic joy once more?
Not by some feel good seminar or self-help section (but sometimes that helps).
Not by continuing to fake it and gut it out for a little while longer.
No, we have to find fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to confide in and to share each other’s burdens.
We need (and crave) fellow Pastors to tell us that they’ve been to those desert places as well.
We have to feast on uplifting, yet challenging spiritual readings by theologians and thinkers who will push up out of our funk from time to time.  If the iron isn’t in the fire being sharpened by other iron, then it is growing rusty and dull.

Don’t hole up in your office.
Don’t internalize your struggles and think no one else will relate.
Don’t pretend that you have it all worked out.
Talk, share, connect with other Pastors…

We need to go back to the source of living water…and sometimes (many times) we need each other more than we think.

Capturing authentic joy and passion for your ministry once again requires other pastors, mentors and leaders to help you.  Don’t become rusty and dull…let’s help recapture that spark in your life once more!

Something more to ponder today!
To God be the glory!

Dear Salvation Army, A Persecuted Army: Joy In Suffering???

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.James 1:2-4

Last week, a horrific attack took place in Kenya.
The aftermath left 147 people dead…mostly students…many were Christians.
It is heartbreaking.
Violence and religion seem to be odd partners.
Radical groups, terrorism, and death seem to plague our world.

Our hearts ache for those who are immediately affected by such acts of appalling violence.
Let me be honest, senseless killings not only makes me sad, it makes me angry.
The world is still filled with bullies and power-hungry zealots.

churchIt WILL get worse!
I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom today, but I can’t help but feel that things are going to get a lot worse for Christians before it will get better.  Many within our ranks in various places in Africa, India, Asia and the Middle East place their lives on the line for the cause of Christ daily…and we should be praying for them!
As an Army of Salvation, we have the opportunity to provide love and care to many corners of our world…we are even able to gain access to places most churches aren’t allowed to go because we provide humanitarian aid.

Is the cause of Christ worth our sacrifice? bible2
I sure hope so!
– Are we living up to our calling to love the unlovable?
– Are we living up to our calling to clothe and feed the poor?
– Are we living up to our calling to take care of the orphans and widows?
– Are we striving to be the very reflection of Christ in our corner of the world?

If Christians suffer persecution, you can bet that The Salvation Army will suffer too because we go to the places with the most need!  We engage in the mission on the front lines.  We cannot be afraid, we cannot falter in our call.
I am not writing these words to “puff us up”, I am writing these words to encourage our Army to continue on into the fight even in the face of persecution and the possibility of death.  If we take up our crosses and follow Jesus, sometimes that path leads us through the very valley of the shadow of death.  We do not fight for General Booth, he was a mere faithful servant of Christ, no, we fight for souls because Christ has saved us and has commissioned us to go!

To my brothers and sisters, fellow soldiers in our Army in places like Kenya, who have been immediately impacted by violence and threatened with death for your faith, we pray for you!  You are not alone!  We support you, some of us will join you on these front lines!  Your faith is strong and I want to encourage you to keep holding up Christ’s light of compassion and hope to all who need it!  You are a shining example of perseverance to the faith, may the rest of us be as bold as you! Keep your standards high, and show us, by your example, how we ought to be conducting ourselves as soldiers of the cross!  perse

I am reminded of this song in our red song books:
SASB #825
1. Christ for the world, we sing;
The world to Christ we bring
with loving zeal;
The poor and those who mourn,
the faint and overborne,
sin-sick and sorrow-worn,
whom Christ doth heal.

2.  Christ for the world, we sing;
The world to Christ we bring
with fervent prayers;
The wayward and the lost
by restless passions tossed,
redeemed at countless cost
from dark despair.

4.  Christ for the world, we sing;
The world to Christ we bring
with one accord;
with us the work to share,
with us reproach to dare,
with us the cross to bare,
for Christ our Lord.
-Samuel Wolcott (1813-86)

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

Dear Salvation Army, Expressions of Christmas Distribution…

distributionIt hasn’t happened yet…but, “Santa’s Workshop” is in full swing as presents and other gift items are placed on folding tables where our Sunday School class usually meets and are now being carefully sorted by a precious few volunteers.  It sort of feels like a big build up to a crashing finale’ in an orchestra piece.  The triple fortes are being played and soon the timpani will come exploding in the rallying final note that is held out, emphasized and controlled by the conductor’s raised hands…I’m waiting for the signal, the final “cut off”, the conclusion.  It all culminates and concludes here.  All the hard work, the radio spots, the television minutes, the rushing from place to place in order to drop off angel tree tags only to return numerous times to retrieve bags, boxes and ornately wrapped (even though year after year we ask for “unwrapped gifts”) presents.

Sometimes it seems a far cry from a small infant who was born into our world and placed in a feeding trough for animals.  Sometimes, I can kind of see a glimpse of the nativity from our chapel from here.  Sometimes, I wonder if this is as vital as we make it out to be, or if we’re missing the point…and by “we’re” I mean both you and me and those who receive such services.

flashbackBut…Flashback from last year…
I saw Jesus.
I glimpsed His smile in a mother who’s cheeks were wet with tears because we could help her make ends meet this Christmas. -Times had been hard for her.
I glimpsed His caring eyes as parents came to our Social Worker and gave her a thanks laden card that said “you matter and without you here we would not have had a Christmas this year.”
I glimpsed His nail scared hands in the numerous voluntary services those who had come to give of themselves and of their time to this Christmas cause.  In these simple gifts of services I saw a servant Jesus stooping down again to wash the disciples feet – how humbling such acts can be to behold!

I recall Jesus’ words to His disciples when they were squabbling over who would be the greatest disciple in the kingdom and Jesus cuts them off and says, “…whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.” (Mark 10:44)  Sometimes I think this ministry is anything but “greatest work”, it is hard laborious, back breaking work.  It has some rewards in this world, but notoriety and fame is certainly not a part of that.  Sometimes living out this expression of servant demands far more than we’re willing to give.

Thankful and Thankless…
Not everyone will receive these gifts with grace.  Some, with great pride will look upon such an offering and refuse it because it is beneath them.  Some will scorn these works and the efforts put forth hour after back breaking hour by priceless volunteers because it doesn’t meet their standards.  Yet, as infrequent as it occurs, a few will come having worn the bruises of this world, and with eyes welling up and choking back the weary restrains, say “thank you!”.  These few make it worth while, not that we are looking for their gratitude, but it does help to know that an impact on our community has been made.  It does help to feel productive for the Kingdom.  No, perhaps souls were not won at some kind of “Toy Shop Mercy Seat”, but perhaps a seed of generosity, grace and love was planted here.  Perhaps such acts of mercy will cultivate a loosening of the soil around hardened hearts.

And…as they go from that place, with bags of toys, clothing and food, children’s lives will be altered.  Perhaps a glimmer of hope will be found.  Perhaps this simple expression of love with spark a child-like interest in the Divine.

These Aren’t Just Toys…toy story
This isn’t about the blockbuster movie series “Toy Story” where toys will come to life.
This is about something more, something deeply heartfelt, some sort of of personal/spiritual contact with another soul who is searching.  This is not just about toys and physical needs being met…this is something more.  This can be about something more if we can look past the tired eyes, the weary bones and herculean Christmas effort.  Yes, it can be a sin to overwork ourselves.  Yes, it can be wrong if we misplace the true meaning of Salvation born in a manger.  This can be about so much more than just providing gifts at Christmas…but the question remains what will we make it to be?

lineNot Just Another Production Line…
I’ve been to Walmart, Target, Bestbuy and other market places this holiday season.  I’ve seen the madness.  I have witnessed the rush to get the perfect present.  I too have stood in those check-out lines, waiting impatiently for my turn.
BUT…when families and individuals come to The Salvation Army,  who are in need, we cannot treat them like just another number in a long line of other “customers”…they are people!  There is dignity in grace.  There is compassion in calling on names rather than numbers.  Can we change this persona?  Can we make it personal?  Can we become something more than just another production line?

It’s coming…and as we provide these basic human services  to those who are in need at our distribution, will they see Jesus in us?  Can we share that hope?  It may sound like lollipops and rainbows here, but the reality is what we do matters and we can truly make an impact for the Kingdom!

Are you ready?  
Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

nativityIsaiah 9:6
For unto us a Child is born,

Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Life…emptying the ocean into a thimble…

Emptying the ocean into a thimble
Emptying the ocean into a thimble

I have this visual in my head.
It’s the image of me and the image of God…and they are so vastly different.
In this image, I am so very, very small.
I am barely a speck within this massive cosmic universe.

I am a thimble.
thimble
I cannot hold much.
What I can hold is quite limited.
What I can’t hold is very, very expansive.

down

It reminds me of a time when I stood on top of a large building in the city and looked down.  Everyone was going about their day, unknowingly being watched from above.  They looked so small from my vantage point.  The cars and vehicles we plodding along and they almost looked like ants in a line.  It never seemed to stop or slow down…it just…kept moving.   The distant sounds of horns blaring and tires screeching could be heard, and it seemed suddenly quite silly.

Sometimes I wonder if this is how we look to God. thimble1
I wonder if He peers down at us…then again, where did we ever get this notion that He is looking down from somewhere?  Could it be that He is right next to us…could it be that he is holding our thimbles in his hands? …(okay, now I’m silently humming “he’s got my thimble in his hands…”)

But in reality I wonder sometimes if we are so consumed in our lives with trying to cram every single thing into our tiny vessels.

We try to cram in success.
We try to cram in popularity.
We try to cram in things and money and cars and homes and happiness and love and acceptance and families and jobs and contentment and places and desires and dreams and politics and rights and wrongs and judgement and….you get it don’t you?  That’s one long run-on sentence and yet, in a way, that’s what we’re doing to our lives.

booksSometimes we do too much.
We pile our “stuff” too high.
We demand far more of ourselves than God does of us…

We think that doing “things” in some sort of right order is what honors God, and then pretty soon those things sometimes replace or unknowingly take the place of God because it all has to be in the right order and done in the right way and polished to a tee…and so we work really, really hard at something that should be about God but it becomes all about us…

And so….Photo Nov 12, 11 19 44 AM

I keep coming back to this image.

How many times am I attempting to pour the whole ocean into my thimble?

How many times am I attempting to do this insane, impossible thing?

How many times do I come away from this “work” feeling defeated and, in no way have I gone even a few inches from where I started?

News flash…
maybe we weren’t created to carry the entire ocean around in our thimbles.
Maybe that’s not how this whole thing works.

It’s like going to the beach.beach

My family and I went this past summer.
We live in the cold north and so going to the beach means traveling a long distance.
So we drove, and drove and drove…finally we got there only to have like three days to enjoy the beach…and so we soaked up the sun and the sounds and the sand for as much time as we could.  We did all of the dumb touristy things.  We collected shells and bought overpriced souvenirs and we attempted to take the beach back home with us by the bucket full and because it was also caked in the carpets of our van.

Question:
Do we attempt to fill our thimbles with the entire ocean because we feel it will suddenly disappear?  Is this how we think about God?
I mean, if we don’t make this mad dash to overflow our thimbles with His infinite ocean do we fail at this holy life?  Is that what being a Christian is all…about?

antsAre we like ants in a line as we go to church and  carry our bibles and dress the part and look good “dressing the part”….

In a very real way have we lost the true meaning of what a “Christ-follower” is all about in this insane rat race of rituals and practices?

Are we attempting to empty the entire ocean into our thimbles when God doesn’t work that way? …and as we do these things are we becoming more and more frustrated, disillusioned and lost?

Matthew 10:10 says…matt 1010
Can we just simply come to Him and experience life without trying to swallow it whole while pouring the entire ocean into these thimbles?  Can we experience this abundant living by being content with what and who we are and what He is giving to us?

thirst

Jesus said that he had living water and if we drank from that water we would never be thirsty again…is that enough for us?  Can we just sit by that well and realize that the ocean isn’t going anywhere?
Perhaps it’s time to stop the rat race.
Perhaps it’s time to stop attempting to fill our thimbles with the entirety of the ocean as we are never satisfied.

thimbleHow’s your thimble?

Something more to ponder today.

Dear Salvation Army – The Internal Battle & 3 Prescriptions!

robin3This past August when Robin Williams died, the world was shocked.  How could someone so funny come to such a sad and horrible ending?  We really do not understand the depths of such internal battles unless we ourselves have been there.

Truths:
Just because we put on uniforms it doesn’t mean that we stop experiencing difficulties.

Just because we become a Christ-follower doesn’t mean that we stop struggling with internal battles.
depression
Some people even genetically struggle with things like depression and I would like to talk about this today.  Before you stop reading and think to yourself “this doesn’t relate to me“, perhaps you’ll reconsider because we are all in this together and you just might be able to help someone else who DOES relate to this.

A Story About Depression:
One of my Uncles, who is an Officer in the Southern Territory USA,  shared with me a story about a local Presbyterian minister in his town.  It is a sad story.  The kind of story that causes shell shocked locals to question life and death and to reconsider their preconceived notions of depression.
depression1
Apparently, this local Presbyterian minister, who had been on sabbatical from his church, committed suicide.   He ended his life.  He allowed the darkness within him to quench the light of hope.  Let that sink in for a moment.  A minister, who was deeply depressed and struggling with this difficult internal battle, ended his life.  It doesn’t matter how he did it, but that he did it.  His church and surrounding community are currently and completely devastated.  Questions have been swirling and the idea that not just any person committed suicide, but a Pastor and leader of a church committed suicide has sent his church and community whirling in disbelief.

There’s A Lesson Here:
-Everyone is susceptible to these internal battles
.-
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Presbyterian minister, a Catholic Priest or even a Salvation Army Officer or Soldier.  We still struggle in life sometimes.  We can still face things like depression.  Sometimes we’re very good at hiding it too.  Sometimes we’re so good that we even convince ourselves that nothing is wrong when something is very wrong within us.  We sometimes compartmentalize these struggles and convince ourselves that someone else is to blame or the situation at hand is to blame when the battle is truly internal.  Instead of beating ourselves up over feeling this way, we need to reach out for help.

The Misnomers Of Depression:
We can often look at these internal battles as weaknesses and something to be embarrassed about.  If you’re struggling right now or know someone who is, please don’t be embarrassed or make that person feel embarrassed.  Don’t think for a minute that you are less valuable because of the internal struggles you are facing.  Don’t think for a minute that no one will understand.  Don’t think for a minute that you are all alone in these dark days.  Don’t buy into the lie that you must be weaker than other because you are struggling.

Another misnomer with depression is the idea that if I deny it exists (that I’m depressed)  I will be fine.  Have you ever shaken up a carbonated soda and then opened up the top?  What happens?  The bottled up carbonated soda explodes from the container doesn’t it?  In the same way that bottle can’t hold the shaken contents, so too our bodies and minds aren’t equipped to hold everything in either.  We have to let these struggles and abscesses of the heart and soul out of us.  We can’t avoid them…they won’t simply go away.  We could do more harm to ourselves if we just let them fester within us without releasing them.

Prescriptions:rx
Here are three prescriptions, dear soldier, to help us conquer and win these internal battles  –

1) Seek Professional Help!
It is a sign of strength, not weakness to receive help from a counselor, pastor, or professional psychologist.  Get over the misconception that it is wrong to talk about your struggles.  Seeking out help is the first step to having victory over that internal battle!  Don’t be afraid to ask for help!  When we have someone else on board with us helping us find hope and joy again we can also find healing.

accountability12) Seek Accountability
This might go hand in hand with #1…but it goes further.  Do you have a friend in whom you can confide?  Are there trusted people in your life who can listen but also be honest with you?  Don’t seek out just anyone or even someone who agree with everything you say.  Find someone who will challenge you, be honest with you and will keep you accountable.  Seek out a fellow brother or sister in Christ who can pray with you and help shoulder your heavy burdens.  Accountability helps relieve some of these internal struggles.  Depression is worse when dealt with alone…remember that!

3) Find Rest And Activitiesrest1
We need our rest to replenish our physical and emotional reserves.  Officers and soldiers are ever in the fray of this mission field, but even soldiers and officers need hobbies and rest!  Make sure you find some “Me” time.  This isn’t selfish this is self-preservation.  What good will you be if you are spent and worn through and through?  Make sure you find things to do outside your mission field sometimes.  Get sufficient rest, take time to reconnect and rejuvenate.

These are just three crucial prescriptions.  There are more, but doing these three things will help in your journey to victory over your internal battles.  Don’t quit.  Don’t think for a moment that you are alone.  You are loved.  You are needed.  You are important!

If we are to be healthy Soldiers and Officers, we must first be honest with ourselves and be willing to do a little soul-care from time to time.  These internal battles won’t just go away if we just ignore them, we must confront them and in that confronting we can find healing and recovery!

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” -Proverbs 4:23

Something more for our Army world to ponder today!
To God Be The Glory…and remember, You are NOT alone!!

3 Ways To Let Peace Boost Your Thanksgiving

Peace…
peace1
It’s more than some iconic symbol.
It’s more than words or a global award.
It’s more than a time of calm amidst the storms of conflict.

We want the calm.
We crave these times especially when the rush of life casts us about like rag dolls thrown into the midst of a blood thirsty pack of wolves.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15

Sometimes we wonder how we could possibly be thankful when it seems our day or week has been wrought with problems.  Sometimes life just sucks.  Sometimes the joy seems to just get sucked right out of us by circumstances and even other people.  In THOSE times it seems nearly impossible to find something to be thankful for.

Allow me but a few moments today to share with you 3 ways that you can boost your thanksgiving.

3 Ways To Let Peace Boost Your Thanksgiving:

1) Take Time For YOU!
phil

This may sound like something out of a self-help book or something you might hear Dr. Phil say…but it’s true.  We need time alone, and time for self-soulcare.  We must find healthy ways to unwind and relax now and then.  We cannot go 100 miles an hour at everything and expect to find peace when we haven’t slowed down enough to find ourselves again.  We can sometimes get lost in the pile of stuff on our desks or amidst the bills piling up at home.  If Jesus got away from His disciples in order to commune with The Father, we ought to consider doing this as well.  How else can we recharge our spent souls?  How else will we find peace again?  When someone is thirsty they don’t go looking for more saltine crackers do they?  No!  They look for a nice cold glass of water to quench that thirst.  We too are spiritually thirsty and in order to quench that thirst we have to go back to the Well of our Father again and again.  As we take personal time we will once again gain perspective and find peace once more.  It is often difficult to disconnect from a very connected world…but it is necessary for our own sanity and personal care!

invent2) A Personal Inventory Of Gratefulness
It’s seems a little silly, maybe a bit childish…but can we bring to mind all of our blessings?  Can we do a personal inventory of our lives right now and evaluate the things that we can be grateful for?  I think we might find that we have so much by way of blessings from God.

All too often we can dwell from a place of “have nots” that we run the risk of forgetting all that we “have” already.   We live in a very materialistic world where products and stuff is valued above everything.  There is this notion that if we do not possess the next big thing then we aren’t truly living a good life.  What a lie that is.  We buy this lie over and over again in our over-saturated marketed world.  We spend countless dollars in order to recapture an element of happiness with that next “thing” only to find elements of discontentment and sadness once more.

When we dwell in the place of “have nots”, we will never truly be content.  We will never truly be happy.  If we live there we will not be able to properly conduct an authentic personal inventory of our gratefulness – because true gratefulness doesn’t come from stuff.  We have been blessed by a Creator who so desperately wants to fellowship with us.  When we can evaluate our lives by the blessings of Him, we can finally tap into that pure element of His peace; and in so doing, we will once again place Him in His rightful place above the “stuff” that we have accumulated and allowed to become our god.

others3) Others.
It goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway.
When we can allow ourselves to become less and Christ to become more, we open ourselves up to finally see the needs of others around us.  We live in a very self-indulged world.  This isn’t news to you I am sure!  Allowing the needs of others to replace our needs isn’t easy, nor is it natural in our present state.  That shouldn’t be taken to mean that we don’t care for ourselves and disregard #1, we need those times as well to refresh and find our source of life again, but after those re-connections with the Father, if we can see the needs of others we can find peace and thanksgiving in our lives!

There are so many people in our communities that need a friend.  There are so many people who need an ear to hear their sorrows and burdens.  We shouldn’t go into those times of “listening” expecting we can fix all of life’s problems for them, but we can be a support to souls who have lost their way.

Can you be a friend?
Can you see the needs of others?
What kinds of selfishness (let’s call it for what it is) prevent us from seeing others?
Do we truly crave genuine peace and thanksgiving in our lives and long to share that with others?

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15

In order for the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts we have to take time to commune with Him, we have to see our joys and blessings that He has provided, and we have to share that joy and blessing with others.

Do you want to boost your thanksgiving this season?
I hope it lasts a little longer than just a season…but let’s start there.
If you long to boost your thanksgiving, give these three suggestions a try.
It’s not a “cure all”…but it’s sure a great first step!

Something more to ponder today.
To God Be The Glory!

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑