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: 3 Wrong Ways We Could Be Wearing Our Uniforms…

If, as it has been said, our uniforms are our priestly garb, or the evidence of the internal change within us; how should we then wear these things we call uniforms?

The purpose behind the uniform’s creation was three-fold; 1) to present a unified army of salvation, 2) to dis-spell class systems in its core body, 3) to model the military only for a holy purpose.

Times have changed, have they not?
The world looks a lot different from the Victorian era doesn’t it?
Society has progressed and at times, dare I say organizations and movements such as our Army has been slow in its modifications and applications.  We do walk a fine line here do we not?  We do want to be attractive when it comes to reaching souls for Christ and adding to our army, but at the same time we do not wish to become an invisible army that has sacrificed its soul for the sake of relevancy.

Afraid Of Change?
Last week the school where my children attend had a major set back.  It has been given the opportunity to relocate into a bigger, better school building and so it is preparing to move.  However, not all of its staff and even parents of students see this as a good thing.  A number of teachers resigned.  A number of parents threatened to pull their children from this school and go elsewhere.  This was the reaction to sudden change.  Change causes fear and anxiety.  Anyone who says that they enjoy change has either become good adapters or are lying.

How does this relate to our Army?  We, in some ways, fear change as well.  Some would argue, “Why change anything, it worked for Booth, it should work for us.“; others would say, “well, it was good enough in my day, why isn’t it good enough to these young upstarts?”   Sometimes these comments and thoughts only seek to maintain things the way that they are due to (even subconsciously) a fear of change, a fear of the unknown.

Switching gears from change to uniform wear
The uniform shouldn’t be completely eliminated from The Salvation Army.  There, I’ve said it, perhaps some might breathe a sigh of relief.  We need uniformity in some shape or form.  We need to be recognized as The Salvation Army.  These uniforms open doors for service and opportunities that others might not have.  That being said, let me highlight briefly today 3 wrong ways that we wear our uniforms.

The Cart Before The Horse?
Both 1&2  (1) No longer is it a public witness

                  (2) It Can Divide and Distract Worshipers:   
I believe the uniform that once united people in the worship setting is now a distraction to the worship setting.  Don’t get me wrong, I wear my uniform faithfully every Sunday, but is the uniform affordable to common people?  Is the uniform something by which newcomers see and feel a part of the body or apart from the body?  Historically speaking the uniform was used as an outside witness tool.  Open airs were staged and uniforms were visible for the public to witness as marching soldiers fell upon a town square and declared the gospel of Jesus Christ to the whosoever.  Souls were brought to Christ.  Active enrollments happened frequently.  It wasn’t a knee jerk reaction or a mandated affair because numbers are down.

Today, the uniform seems to have become predominantly an internal vessel of worship.  Soldiers do not wear these uniforms in public as they used to (maybe a few diehards out there or in places like Africa, India and South America). Officers wear them, most are worn proudly, some out of obligation.  These uniforms identify the officer in public places and they still do open doors.  This is pivotal…but where are the soldiers?  Where are the open airs?

I am not chastising hard working soldiers here, I am just pondering why the uniform has predominantly disappeared in the public eye on the weekends unless you visit a corps building?  I think we have gotten the cart before the horse.  I think we have misplaced the purpose of the uniform.   I have heard of soldiers today who wear their uniforms throughout town and invite people to their holiness meetings.  They use their uniforms in a way that we have somehow forgotten about.  They use them as a means of invitation and witness not as a means of identification in the corps building.  These same soldiers then upon arriving at the corps for worship take off their uniforms and dress in regular clothes so that new members who have just been invited do not feel out of place or aliens in a sea of blue.  soldiers3

3) As A Pharisee and “Law” Enforcer
I will most likely get some comments about this one…so be it.  I have witnessed it first hand.  My wife was even spoken to once rather harshly because her top button wasn’t buttoned in a meeting. (I was like, “Are you kidding me?”)   There are pharisees in uniforms among us.  I do not wish to sound judgmental but Jesus had some very harsh things to say about such people.  I pray that I never become one myself.  I pray that I do not care so much about how my uniform looks or how the uniform looks  upon someone else so much so that the condition of one’s heart is irrelevant.  If we use the uniform to lord position and power over others then I fear we will have lost our way as an Army of Salvation.  We will have become a hollow army only caring about appearances instead of holy living and conditions of the heart.

I am thankful, however, that this third use of uniform is not predominant.  There are pharisees in almost every church and organization.  Unfortunately, some of them are in positions of power and authority.    Fortunately we serve a God of absolute authority and all will be held accountable to Him one day in how we have conducted our lives.  I can work on me, I can live my life for Him, I do not have to ponder long on such people when there is still work to be done.

Are We Wearing Our Uniforms Improperly? 
I do not mean are you wearing white socks with your uniform?  I do not mean is your top button unbuttoned?  I do not mean the use of your tunic…I mean how are you using the uniform for God’s glory?  How are you using the uniform to bring people to Christ?  Are you conscience of the uniform’s detractors?  This may be something we come to disagreement on…that’s fine, but let’s not stop talking about such things and consider such things as we seek to serve One God under One mission!

This is something more to for our Army world to Ponder today.
Some may say I have gone too far here, some may say that I haven’t gone far enough.  What say you?

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