Dear Salvation Army, Expressions of an Officer at Christmas

hope2
The “Hope” for all the world!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expressions of Compassioncompassion
But in the eyes of the hopeless
in the lives of the desperate
in the darkness of the forlorn
I have an opportunity to help.
I have a chance to mend brokenness
I have these hands that are able to pick up
the broken pieces and, with the holy spirit, help
to put the pieces back together again.
Can I attain and capture this compassion?
No.
It isn’t in me…it never was, nor will it ever be…
homeless1It isn’t something I am born with
or some sort of innate empathy for complete strangers…
I am, at times,
the priest that walks on by in that parable of the Samaritan.
I am incapable of it…by my own strength, heart, and power.
Without Him, I can do nothing.
Without His strength, heart, and power
this compassion is far beyond my reach.
But…
I want to help.
I want to serve.
I want to live this set-apartness
To experience this holiness
To shine His light…
Lord,
help me to express
your restoration
your forgiveness
your deliverance
your love.
-Amen.

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

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

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

Dear Salvation Army, A Salute To Veterans Of The Spiritual War…

poppy

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Today many salute veterans who did not come back and those who simply endured the horrors of war.  I do not wish to cheapen these remembrances today.  It is not my intent either to draw any parallels…but there is a spiritual battle in this world still today that is ongoing.  There are many who have fought the good fight and have been “Promoted To Glory”.   I honor these dear soldiers today as well.

Some Salvation Soldiers have been sent to some very difficult places in our world to help share the love of Christ.  Some of these salvation soldiers have given their lives for the cause of Christ.  We honor you as well, you have fought this good fight.
veterans
We do not honor death.  
We know that death holds no power over Christ and His followers.
We know that death has been defeated.
We know that true victory lies in Christ Jesus, the conqueror of sin and death.
We know that the dead in Christ shall arise…we are confident that no matter what evils that we may face, we know in whom we have believed and we can overcome through His name!

We honor life.fight2
We honor the fallen who have gone on before us and have set an example for us to follow.
We honor the faithful who have exemplified holy living as their legacy and we have witnessed Christ through them.
We honor the martyrs who stood upon this faith despite the certainty of death.
We honor the lives of countless soldiers and friends who would stand in the gap for the poor, the hungry and the hurting.
We honor the doctors and nurses who have gone into villages and townships wrought with the AIDS epidemic and have cared for the sick and the orphaned.

Dear Soldier,
though today commemorates fallen soldiers and veterans of war, we too honor the soldiers of this army of salvation and that of the Christian world who have walked the path of selflessness and given up everything for the cause of Christ.

We do not celebrate death.  We celebrate life, new life given to all of us through Christ.  We celebrate the path blazed by the saints who have gone on before us.  We celebrate as kingdom people declaring that kingdom to be here and now.  We celebrate that we do not have to look forward to heaven “someday” but can help bring heaven to our world here and now.

I will fight on, dear soldier…will you?
I will fight to keep the banner of Christ held high through acts of love, grace, peace, hope, compassion, charity and reconciliation.  I will fight to bring these qualities to those who have not heard or are unable to through their hardships of life.  I long to fight along side you…if you will remain at my left and right.  We cannot move forward into the fray without unity of this body.  We cannot proceed onward without soldiers willingly equipped for the battles ahead.

goodWill you fight on?
Will you stay strong?
Will you stand firm?

Today we do not just remember…but we fight on!
Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

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