Dear Salvationist, Does Nepotism Still Exist In Our Army?

nepotism
From the start, some of us might shirk at the idea that nepotism still exists in The boothSalvation Army.  But we must recognize that even the Booths promoted family to places of authority.  William Booth viewed his Generalship to be something he would pass along to his children, and perhaps his children’s children.  Could it be that this sort of family promoting still occurs in our Army today?  And if so, should it?  Are there checks and balances in place to prevent nepotism in our Army?

Growing up in the Army, I recall many times where my parents were extremely cautious with even the appearance of favoritism towards my sister and me.

Speaking of Favoritism…can this type of behavior come into play with promotions and appointments in our army?  Should it?  Another question to ask along this line of pondering is – if favoritism does occur in our army – aren’t we then shortchanging our movement of possible movers and shakers who could make a difference, but some have chosen to choose people who are familiar and even safe?   crown

The argument can be made that we in the Army ought to trust and leave this up to God to sort out and perhaps these appointments are “His will”.  Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about that.  I have sincere faith in a Mighty God that He can make something that was meant to harm into something beautiful.  I believe God makes all things new, and He provides in spite of our own efforts and human decisions.  But I don’t know if I really trust human authority as I do God’s authority (nor do I feel we should)…for that matter what defines “God’s Authority”?  I’m curious what your answer might be to that.  I’m not looking for a fight, I’m genuinely interested in how we define this!   I have to be honest, I have always been suspicious of human authority in the guise of being 100% God’s authority.  It’s not that I’m overly cynical of leaders and authority, I just question sometimes if our personal feelings do not play into many of the decisions that are made on the behalf of others – and thereby we sometimes or often show favoritism.
favor
Submission to Authority
Does this mean that I do not submit to authority?  Absolutely not!  We are told to submit to authority in numerous scripture verses.  For example:1 Peter 2:13-17 says;  Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority:whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

Does this mean that we aren’t allowed to query decisions and ask pertinent questions?  Of course not!  It does, however depend on our attitude and motivation!  I am certainly not proposing that we become rebellious by any means, please do not come away thinking that at all!  I will say that as a leader of sorts in my own right, I do recognize that I will never please everyone by the decisions that I have to make from time to time.  This is the heavy mantel of responsibility and leadership that is thrust upon us.  It does take a toll, and I would ask you to be in constant pray for your leaders, whether it be at the corps level, the divisional, territorial, national and international levels.

Back to the initial question:
Does Nepotism and Favoritism still exist in our Army?
My short answer is yes it does…
But I would also caution anyone from making rash judgments unless you have all of the information.

favor2Questions to Ponder:
Does Nepotism still happen in our Army?
Should it happen?
If so, what does this say to those who aren’t related or chosen for specific duties or tasks?
How can we sidestep issues like this?  Is it possible to sidestep them?
What about favoritism?
Could showing favoritism diminish the ranks our ranks and morale?
Can we submit to authority and still question?
How do we reconcile some experiences of flawed human authority with the expectations of God-led authority?
Am I praying fervently for my Corps Officer, Local Officer, Divisional, Territorial, Leader?

I look forward to your constructive conversation on this topic!
Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
*Disclaimer: The thoughts and views of the writer are not necessarily the thoughts and view of The Salvation Army, reader discretion is advised.

Dear Salvation Army – 10 Things That Will Kill Your Corps

Today I want to explore with you only ten things that will kill our corps.  As with other lists we have compiled here on Pastorsponderings, this is merely a primer and I know there are other issues that will certainly lead to a terminal corps.  Be mindful as we explore this list to consider your own corps, ask yourself the hard questions.  Our goal is not to tear down or make anyone feel bad about their corps, but instead through critical thinking, help us to inject vibrancy into corps settings.  One other word of caution – Corps Officers, don’t try to be the dictator of every aspect of your corps, micromanaging will stunt the potential growth of your soldiers and local officers.  Soldiers & Local Officers, don’t expect or accept the notion that your corps officer is to do everything either.  This is a partnership.  It is true that the position of corps officer is a very temporal position and with it comes differing views and leadership styles, but be firm and strong as the glue that hold your corps together!  More often than not, corps that die usually have little to no local officers leading the way.  Without that infrastructure the corps can collapse.

So, without further adieu, let us delve into
Ten Things That Will Kill Your Corps 

  1.  Legalism legal
    Contrary to some views, the Pharisee of the Bible did not die…they still exist sometimes even in our corps.  Be mindful of the use of rules and regulations.  Yes, we need order and operate within a quasi-military structure, but watch out that extreme legalism doesn’t soffocate your members!  Remember that we are not under law but under grace!  (Rom. 6:14)   Yes, keep to the doctrines of our Army, but do not lord it over soldiers and adherents.  Excessive power will divide people and make them dispise leadership, where as grace and love will solidify the soldiers and friends of our army.  Sometimes, bite your tongue and say nothing is a better formula than lashing out, judging and becoming the rule enforcer!
  2. Tolerance of Sin Issues
    sinAt the other end of the spectrum is the ignoring and tolerance of sin issues in your corps.  Be mindful that we are not the judge of our world, but we do hold a high standard for our fellow brothers and sister in Christ who wear this uniform.  This almost seems to be in complete conflict with the first point, but it is not.  Galatians 6:1 clearly reminds us as it did in Paul’s day – “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.

    Do not blindly ignore sin issues in your corps.
    Confront in love with the support of other believers.  We must be very cautious here, make sure this is not done in anger, unless righteous anger is needed (let the Holy Spirit lead you).  Pray about these issues.  Wait for the right time.  DO NOT confront from the Pulpit or lash out at people just to “get even”.  Use your corps council, your local officers, contact an mediatary from your divisional headquarters, but do not let anyone in your fellowship slip further into sin and/or by ignoring it condone it by-proxy.

  3. Lack of Core Leadership
    Without core leaders in the corps, the vision and decisions fall solely on the Corps leadOfficer(s).  Yes, they have had training, yes they are leaders, but they cannot lead properly without the core leaders to help them.  A shared vision and delegated group will be better equipped to handle opportunities and threats that come to your corps and community.  If you don’t currently have core leaders, begin by praying and asking God to reveal potential leaders to you.  Prayer is never a last resort, but a constant conversation.  Don’t limit your search to just the older members, the younger generations will eventually replace us at some point, so begin to invest in them.  Begin to disciple them, and display for them what leadership is all about!  Gather one or two influential people with common sense to help you in your corps.  Remember, that we are an egalitarian movement – both men and women are equal, so do not limit your leadership search to just men or just women.  Without a core group of leaders, the vision and movement will be limited.
  4. Polarizing Visions
    disagreement
    Polarizing Vision Can Kill!
    On the other end of the spectrum you might have too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak.  What happens when the core leaders in your core do not agree on which direction to take?  This is a danger, and if not addressed properly can leader to dysfunction, an exodus of membership and death in the corps.  A shared vision is of the utmost importance.  Without a shared vision, everyone will be doing their own thing and everyone will be going every which way, and nothing will ever get done successfully.  “Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.” (Proverbs 11:14)
  5. Inwardly focused – All-in
    There is a danger in our corps to become so insulated, so accustomed to who is there, focusedand what we do as a corps, that we begin to have no need for the “outside world”.  We stop looking out into our community and we become self-reliant and self-focused.  In this danger, what happens when our congregation gets old and dies?  Will there be youth to raise up and take our place?  Will be just be a group of inbred soldiers?  I don’t mean to sound crass, but the reality is, we need to stop being afraid of our communities.  We need to stop treating the people outside our buildings as “those people” with a sense of superiority.  We must squelch the desire to just remain in our buildings and selfishly focus on “us”.  What about the great commission?  What are we fighting for if we only fight for ourselves and our traditions and self-interests?  If we are all-in and inwardly focused, we will slowly die away…and no one will care when we’re gone.
  6. Outwardly focused – All-in
    godThis is probably a rare thing, but perhaps not.  Perhaps there are some corps that have so many services to the community that worship and all things “Spiritual” are an after thought, and then you come to Sunday and it just becomes a “thing we do”.  We focus all of our energies on the outside, on meeting human needs but we seldom meet those needs “in HIS name” anymore.  We might as well be just another social service agency or a humanitarian group, because we will have forgotten our first love and the “body” will be just bits and pieces pulled and stretched so thin that it doesn’t resemble Christ any longer.
  7. Rigid Goals and Vision 
    We can plan to fail by over planning everything.  This can kill our corps, if we do not listen to feedback from those we serve, and we merely continue to plod on in ourrule vision and goal because “they have been set, and we don’t alter these goals”.  Goals should never be so rigid that there is no looking back and re-evaluating what works and what does not work, whether it be in evangelism, discipleship, or corps fellowship growth strategies.  Remember what worked 100 years ago, might not necessarily be the best method to use in an ever evolving culture.  Not to say we adopt our culture, but we ought to consider what works and what does not work any longer and not be so rigid that we refuse to ever change how we plan and how we enact a strategy in our corps.  Rigidity can kill your corps, and stifle any potential growth you might see.
  8. Holiness is not taught
    holyIf you corps does not understand Holiness, and or it is never preached on spoken of, perhaps this might be an indicator of a terminal issue.  I am not saying that holiness is the end-all be-all of the corps, but what do you do with Salvation after receiving it?  Where does one go after initial sanctification?  Does the Holy Spirit still desire to transform us through and through?  Does He not want us to be the very reflection of Christ?  Yes.  There needs to be continual conversation about our surrendered life and how that looks in the real world.
  9. Discipleship is not cultivated
    With the teachings of Holiness, comes the deeper fellowship of discipleship.  This isn’t some text book class we all are forced to attend, this is mentoring, this is disemulating elders we respect, this is becoming more than who we are now.  Walking in the footsteps of saints and in so doing, we too become saints within this great army.  If your corps does not have this vital element, closely connected to holiness, you could be facing extinction.  Recognize this need, and do something!!
  10. Comfort Over Risk 
    Lastly, our army could will die if we merely remain content in where we have come.  We can sit back and relish the past.  We can lament that things aren’t how they used lazyto be in the bygone days.  We can rest comfortably on financial resources and riches we have been given from various places, and never take another risk again…and if we do this, we. will. die.  I cannot stress it enough, in order for God to change our Army, we have to become uncomfortable again.  We have to take risks and forget what the rules and regulations say.  We have to close dead corps, move to places of need without bureaucratic red tape hamstringing us along the way.  We have to get out of our pews and put feet to our professed faith.  It’s either put up or shut-up.  Seriously, we can talk a good game, but if we can’t back it up, then hung it up and quit already.  We don’t need fans in the stands not doing the work.  We don’t need complainers and criticizers telling it us it can’t be done – because the risk is too great.  If we don’t do something, we might as well put our corps on life-support right now.  There is a sad trend that is taking place in our corps around the USA, and our corps are not statistically growing anymore.  We are not busting out of our corps buildings anymore.  Yes, perhaps it’s across the board in all denominations, but could it be that we are so comfortable now that we have stopped ACTUALLY trying to reach our communities?  Could this be an entire systemic issue of spiritual laziness?  Forgive me if I offend you today, I can’t help but feel alarmed at how swiftly our corps are dying.  And I can’t help but wonder what the next 50 years will hold for this movement?  If we do nothing, we will not be here in 50 years…not like we have been, not like we should be…and then perhaps, Lord forbid, God raises up someone else to do what we should have been doing.

    These are ten things that are killing our corps…there are more, but for now that is more than enough to ponder and chew on in our army.  What do you think?  Tell us, please, I relish your input, opinion and testimonies.

    Blessings on you and your corps today!
    To God be the glory!

“Legacy – Owning Your Influence” – Precious Diamonds!

If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry.  He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’
–Martin Luther King Jr.

matterYesterday at church I spoke on the topic of “Legacy”.
It’s an important message for all of us to hear, not because I spoke it, but because we are all called to this holy purpose.  If we claim to be a Christ-follower, we are set apart for something much more precious than common existence.

diamondImagine if someone were to give you a magnificent diamond to take care of.   (I know, but imagine with me for just a second)  The gem is extremely valuable, the clarity is remarkable and it truly is a precious stone to admire and protect.  There is nothing common about this diamond, it is one of a kind and cannot be replaced.   So, what do you do?  You protect it.  You store it in a safe place.  You don’t just leave it laying around like a common rock gathered from a field.

Similarly – You are precious to God.
You are HIS prized possession.  You matter to Him.  There is nothing common about you in His eyes.  He has saved you for a Holy purpose, and at a mighty price:  His Son’s death on a cross.  Because of the resurrection, because of grace, because of forgiveness and atonement, we have become His, and His alone!

childNow that we know WHOSE we are, WHAT we DO matters!
A legacy isn’t so much about what we want people to remember us by, but about being found faithful in WHOSE we are.  Everything that we say and everything that we do MATTERS!  Everything we are inside a church building and ESPECIALLY outside a church building matters!  There is nothing more off-putting to people in our communities than individuals who claim to be “Christians” but their lives consistently contradict the claim.  Why would anyone want to be a Christian if they don’t practice what they preach?

What kinds of fields are we sowing in our communities?
What kinds of legacies and examples are we living out loud for our children?

How is the world better off because we have lived and are faithfully serving in it?

Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate our lives today.
Perhaps we need to re-commit our lives to Christ.
Perhaps there is a deep need for a reconciliation of our hearts and intentions to the will of God once more.

What we do – matters.
How we live – makes a difference.

matter1WHOSE we are – defines the impact we can make in our small corners of the world.

How is your Legacy going today?
Something more to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Pondering Movie Review – The Martian

This past week, I had the opportunity to see “The Martian” with my wife and a group of friends.
Here is a Pastorsponderings Movie review of this film:

Author Andy Weir
Author Andy Weir

I remember hearing Andy Weir on Adam Savage’s (Yes, that crazy hyperactive ginger  from Mythbusters) Still Untitled Adam Savage Project podcasts.  Andy is a science geek, and he has this insatiable, inquisitive nature about all things science and space exploration.  His book “the Martian” was actually self-published after he had blogged it chapter by chapter.  Often times, others would offer suggestions and/or check his math within specific components of astrophysics and other complex formulas.  His process, to me, was astounding and although there is an element of fiction within his “fiction novel” the science is already available for such an amazing feat of humanity ingenuity.

                                                                             The Movie: 
movieMatt Damon plays the lead character astronaut – Mark Watney who is accidentally left for dead on Mars following a horrible storm.  His crew believes he was swept away and killed,  so they make a rapid launch and plot the long course for earth.   The only problem?  Watney is of course not dead, he is alive and now marooned on an inhospitable planet with only a NASA designed artificial habitat pod to survive in.   “Will he survive?”  This was the question that I was asking myself over and over again during the film.  It truly was “edge of your seat” with many tense scenarios where almost everything that could go wrong – did go wrong.

I really enjoyed this movie!  Damon does a great job making Watney come to life in a very authentic and organic way.  The science behind the plot makes it plausible and is not too far fetched to be unbelievable.  I loved the conflict that the leaders of NASA had to weigh – do they tell the public that Watney is alive or do they maintain the story of a lost hero and space explorer?

A few parental suggestions – 
There is some language in the movie and one naked butt scene, so parents be mindful of this adult content.

My Recommendation –
I found Ridley Scott’s depiction of Mars to be mind blowing and visually pleasing – I thought to myself while watching , “this is what I think of when I think of Mars and its crazy violent red surface!”  Everything seemed to be was captured so well on film for us to all imagine what it would be like to be stranded on a violent uninviting rock such as Mars.  I loved the survival story of Watney, I wont tell you if he survives or not, you’ll have to see it for yourself to find out!  It truly is like, as writer Andy Weir describes it,  Apollo 13 collides with Cast Away.  My recommendation to you – go see it for yourself, experience the edge of your seat, nail biting intensity that is the Martian!

As A Christian –
I watched this movie and was able to marvel at the ingenious complexity of God’s creation of the Universe! Watney (Damon’s character) even prays out loud to God in a moment of utter frustration and hopelessness.  The Martian is an existential tale that brings life and death, the fight to survive, hope vs hopelessness all back into focus.  I was also reminded of just how creative we humans were created to be, especially in times of crisis and survival as depicted in The Martian.

I give the Martian – thumbscheck it out for yourself and tell us what YOU think!

Something more to ponder today!

Dear Salvation Army – “Leadership, The Art of Delegation”

uniform4
What you are doing is not good.  You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” Exodus 18:17-18

mosesMoses was trying to lead as best he could.
The problem was THIS wasn’t “the best”.
He tried to take on the mantel of leadership all on his own.
I don’t think it was pride, I think it was determination to see this mission through.
Moses was trying, he really was…but he was trying too hard.
You know the phrase “think smarter not harder”?  This is where we find Moses.
He was doing a good thing, but he wasn’t doing the best thing.

How often do we get caught in this trap too?
How often do we take on the mantel of leadership and fail because we face burnout and discouragement?   If I were to venture a guess it is because we try too hard and we reap little by way of reward for our efforts.  Could it be that we have failed to include others within our mission?  Could it be that we have become so consumed by our work that we have made it all about us instead of God?  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t supposed to be this way, nor was it our intentioned to make it that way, but in our efforts we have lost focus and we are experiencing tunnel-vision.

Dear Salvation Army,
we call it micromanaging…but we just assume it only happens within leadership and with “those officers and people at DHQ or THQ or even IHQ”.   We assume wrong.  We too are often guilty of micromanaging and failing to include others into the mission by delegating responsibilities to others.  When we fail to delegate, we actually rob others of the opportunity to serve and to experience ministry.  Think about it for a second, when we step up on the platform on Sunday and lead everything – who is getting edified by leading? The answer is –just you.  Who could benefit from stepping up to lead?  Who would be available to help?

The Screening Process:
qualityIdentify others.
Pick people who can support you in leadership and who will strengthen your mission.
Don’t pick people to help and then never use them.
Help to equip them to lead.
Be mindful that not everyone will be “on the same page” as you when it comes to our mission.
This is why we need to be careful who we select to help us lead.
On the flipside of the coin, don’t be too stringent on your selection process to the point that no one qualifies.

Replace Yourself:disciple
Remember that the process of discipleship – true, authentic, real-tangible discipleship is all about leading others to replace you.  You cannot carry this mantel of leadership all on your own or indefinitely.  Don’t be so prideful to think that you can “hold on” forever.  This is especially true in The Salvation Army when Officers move around from appointment to appointment.  Are our corps set up to disciple people to pick up the mantel of leadership beyond just the Corps Officer?  Is there an intentional leadership plan to develop people and move them into active roles?  Are we preparing younger generations to model and become the leaders that we so desperately need?

Discipleship isn’t just about delegating roles we’d rather not do.  This is a deeply spiritual thing to do.  What happens when we allow discipleship to occur is that we allow that person access to us –we become vulnerable to that person.  We grant these would be disciples the keys to the door instead of just peering through the window of our lives.   In the process, the mantel of leadership is shared, the burden can be lightened, the joys, victories and sorrows equally experienced.

Dear Salvation Army,
We are sometimes guilty of monopolizing leadership opportunities…
-Sometimes it’s because we feel no one else is capable.
-Sometimes it’s because we’ve always done it THAT way.
-Sometimes it’s a matter of pride and even arrogance.
-Sometimes it’s because the pressure to succeed is so high.
-Sometimes it’s because replicating and delegating seems to takes so much time and effort.

Moses was carrying this mantle, this burden of leadership on his own.
He was worn out, burnt out and spent.  He needed someone like Jethro to remind him that he couldn’t “handle it alone”.

Dear Salvation Army, do you need this reminder today?
Are you burnt out, spent and worn?
Have you shirked discipleship and the gift of delegation because it requires more effort?
I’ve been there too…sometimes I’m still there.
Perhaps this is your wake up call.
Perhaps this is your reminder.

Perhaps today we should take these words to heart and do something about it –
What you are doing is not good.  You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” Exodus 18:17-18

Something more to ponder today.

10 Church Signs The You Need To See…And Never Duplicate!

This pondering is certainly tongue in cheek.
I want to poke a little fun at my fellow Christians today.
Perhaps some of them didn’t know that their Church signs were a little questionable…perhaps some did.
I understand some churches like to grab our attention as we drive by their buildings, I get that…but sometimes you see a church sign and, if you’re anything like me, you shake your head and/or groan.

I see a lot of church signs, I’m sure you do as well.
Some are good.  They get to the point of their message.
Some are just down right bad.

Here are 10 church signs that you need to see…and never duplicate.  -I mean NEVER!  

#10Signs1I understand that churches want faithful members, but guilt tripping people to come to church isn’t probably the best use of your signage space.  It just comes across as negative, it might actually push people away from your church because they might assume your church is judgmental and fickle.  Skip the negative, guilt tripping messages.

#9
signs2Okay…I kind of like my churches pain-free!  I don’t know about you but I’m really not into getting beaten at church.  All kidding aside, I’m sure the person who put this sign up quickly realized how it sounded by actually reading it aloud…I hope.  Like it or not Pastors, we shouldn’t love to hurt people.

#8
Signs3Ok, I get what this church is trying to say, I just think there might be a more tactful way of saying it.  It seems a little presumptuous for this church to make this statement.  I’m not saying that laziness and poverty can’t be related, I’m just saying – what if someone who has fallen onto hard times sees this sign?  How would they feel about themselves?  I just think a church who has to put this sign up to make a point is sort of sending a message to the community that they believe all of the poverty issues are because people are lazy…that is simply NOT true.

#7
Signs4I get this message too, but what about those who aren’t Christians yet?  What kind of message does this convey to them?  Also besides being a little tacky, it’s also a little crass.  Perhaps this church was trying to be “edgy”, I just think this sort of message does not attract people and/or bring them into the church on Sunday, instead it drives them away.

#6
signs5Two words:  Run. Away!  We don’t need the church to help us all to die thank you very much!  Again, I understand the message that they were trying to convey – I’m really laughing, but at the same time I’m kind of cringing too.

#5
signs6I’m sure we get it, It just seems a bit forced doesn’t it?  The message seems to insinuate that none of us are busy doing what the Lord has called us to do…and it also assumes (albeit with a little humor involved) that by “acting” busy we’re going to fool Jesus.  Ha!  This message is so off base that I have a tough time reading it again.  Maybe I’ll just walk by because I’m too busy acting busy…okay, I digress.

#4
signs7Wow.  There is SO much to say about this diatribe of a sign.  So, let me get this straight, God is the reason for the Tsunami, AIDS, and War?   I feel anything but “Welcomed” by this sign, in fact, I would run far, far away from this sort of message.  I understand that God did punish people in the bible because of their disobedience and sin, but to assume that all acts of nature and disease are created by God to punish the world, I feel is a bit too much (I’m being a little too subtle at my distaste for this sign)

#3
signs8
So that’s the reason we have to forgive?!  I was forgiving people for all the wrong reasons for all this time, when I should have been focusing on messing with their heads…how dumb of me!”  If we forgive, it is to help ourselves as well as the other person.  I won’t get started on the phrase “forgive and forget” today, that’s a whole other topic, but obviously the message is about forgiveness.  I get the sarcasm here, I also have the spiritual gift of sarcasm, it just seems to be the wrong place to put a sarcastic message (at least to me).

#2

signs9

I’m sorry Dr. Parker, but we’re not related.  HA!  Again, it’s all about the sign and the placement of the words.  I found this sign to be rather funny.  Perhaps this is the Sunday’s message, I get that…but if you’re like me, you might have read this message a little differently too.  Nope, no DNA test required this Sunday!

#1
sign10Whaaaa????
I’m sorry but to me this flies in the face scripture;
Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-22)

Yes, this relationship that we have with Christ requires faith, but it also requires us to sort out the wise and foolish teachings that are all around us.  Sometimes I think churches use this type of propaganda in coined phrases so that members will be completely dependent on the church as their main source of theological understanding.  We should be free thinkers in the sense that we question things, we search out truths and we confront falsehoods and erroneous beliefs.  We can’t just blindly accept things of “faith” at face value!

I have left out a number of signs, some of them were beyond provocative; Some were offensive, some were just flat out silly.  These are just ten signs you should see and never duplicate.  I would be curious to know others that you have seen.  Either post them here on this pondering thread or share a picture of a church sign that you have found.

Something more to ponder today.

Dear Salvation Army Officers, All My Bags Are Packed…I’m Ready to Go??

We (my family) are under farewell.
In Salvation Army terminology we were given marching orders, and soon those orders will come to fruition.
It is, as it usually is, bittersweet.  It reminds me, as an Officer, that this life and calling is at times very transitory.

It seems that we could claim that famous line from Robert Frost that says,
But I have promises to keep,  
And miles to go before I sleep
(Stopping by Woods on a snowy evening)
boxes1For it seems to me that this journey within this uniform is often times met with both laughter and tears, sorrow and joy,  the swell of jubilation and the crash of brokenness…all rolled into one.  Those words of Jesus often resound in my head like I was there that day listening to them, hanging on them, and making them mine – “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58)… We as Salvationists who have accepted this calling as Officers of The Salvation Army, literally live within borrowed homes and it seems all so temporary.  It is not that we are attempting to do the impossible and assume the very existence of Christ, but within the covenant that we have signed and in the sacrificial lives that we are to accept, there is certainly this element of homelessness that embodies transitions such as these.

paintI am, perhaps feeling a little bit melancholy today.
For the boxes are piling up in the garage.
The paintings and photographs are now bubble wrapped and in the ready.
The children’s art work that used to adorn the refrigerator and would often times overflow onto the surrounding cabinet in a cacophany of paint splashes and vibrant colors reflecting child-like creative expression, has now been carefully folded and packaged beneath plastic bins containing other family keepsakes.
The quarters, the house that we have occupied for nearly four years is becoming vacant and echos of emptiness fill both my ears and my heart.   There are, however, still ghosts which linger here.  Mere memories of events hosted, and parties with favors and paper streamers strewn everywhere.  These ghosts hover upon my memories today.  They fill the void of these now empty rooms as lists of cleanings and briefs and a litany of other concerns flood in before the final goodbyes take place.   house

This is, to be certain, a unique calling to undertake.
We can sometimes, with rose colored glasses, peer into “Officership” and see only the adventures and the “win the worlds for Jesus'”, but often times it does come with a price.  There are trade offs.  We don’t ever take for granted what is provided to us, for certainly we are taken care of (far more than yesteryear where officers wouldn’t even have a paycheck for nearly a year if times were hard) and our families are supported rather well.  We are blessed to see this level of support.  No, we do not take this for granted, but despite our best efforts, these transitions, these farewells and marching orders do take a toll.  The transition (which may as well be some sort of holiness movement’s version of purgatory) can sometimes leave us stepping from one appointment over the deep dark, scary crevice of limbo and uneasiness.   It is the letting go of hands that you have ministered to for the last four years and have invested countless hours in…those hands will be holding onto another shepherd (very qualified I am positive of by the way)…and as you let go, there in the other direction is another group of hands of people to minister to lead and disciple (they too have been shepherded by very capable hands as well).   This is certainly a unique place to stand at the moment.  I am currently staring into the empty room that once occupied so much…our bags are all packed, and yet there is a burden and an ache as I write these words today.   hands1

Some have wisely said that if we didn’t feel this burden and ache as you leave then perhaps there might be something wrong.  If this is true, then something is certainly right with me today.  Each place of ministry is unique.  It is an adventure.  It is, often times, a leap of faith.  I do sometimes struggle with this full-submission in the calling.  It’s not so much that I don’t trust God as to where He will place our next step…but perhaps I just don’t trust people as much as I should…perhaps I am still learning to trust leaders and leadership of any kind.

Honestly, the life of an Officer in the Salvation Army is rewarding, but there are the heartaches as well…maybe that’s what Jesus was talking about when said those words to those He was calling to follow Him:

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Manhas no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.”  But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”  Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”  Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62)

I’m really not trying to look back today.
I’m ready…?!?
It’s daunting…But Jesus is strong to deliver, He IS mighty to save, mighty to save!
And so we go, and we go in faith.
This sacrificial life is not easy, but then again nothing is easy if it’s worth it…and I know it’s worth it!

Something more to ponder today as I go back and pack some more boxes.
To God be the glory!  

Dear Church, Dear Salvation Army – Give Special Needs Kids A Break!!

Let me be vulnerable with you for a moment.
We have a son who struggles with disabilities.
He has some severe educational challenges coupled with ADHD.
One might say, “oh, well they have medication for that kind of thing”…and you’re right, but did you know that usually when providing medications for ADHD it’s a crap-shoot as to what will ACTUALLY work?  Did you also know that there are some severe side-effects to these medications?  Some even have long term effects that only exhibit themselves later in life through health problems.  Our son has always been extremely sensitive to medication.  We tried some of the ADHD medications, one made our son as high as a kite.  Another led our son to have extreme bouts of anxiety that forced us to consult a counselor.

He’s a great kid.  He’s extremely creative, and he’s also very sensitive about it even if he doesn’t let on that he is. He also privately suffers from anxiety and depression because of it.
I don’t say this to make you feel sorry for us, I just want you to understand what I’m about to say.

kid1One moment in particular still strikes the protective parent chord in me.  We were attending a required army event.    We were all at this meeting including our son.  You have to understand that children with ADHD have difficulty sitting still for prolonged periods of time…it gets better with age, but it does take a. lot. of. time.   Anyway, back to the meeting.  There wasn’t a youth track for this event, and so all of the families were to sit through a three hour meeting…in ADHD time this is the equivalent of a year sitting in an uncomfortable chair.
Our son became rowdy and restless even with various distractions provided for him.  Finally, after another restless shuffle in a metal chair and a very loud exhale of frustrated breath, a soldier seated in front of us turns around and looked at us and our son with daggers in her eyes and a dirty look on her face.  Not a word was said, but words weren’t needed, we knew what she wanted to convey to us and we weren’t all too happy about the situation either.  It was at this point that we took our son out of the meeting despite the “required” attendance.  I wish I could say that this was the first time this has happened…it wasn’t.  I also wish I could say that it will never happened again…I can’t.  We struggle.  It’s not easy.  Perhaps some of you out there with kids who struggle with ADHD and/or other special circumstances can relate and understand.

Give Special Needs Kids A Break! kid2
Churches and Corps should be sensitive to families who have children with special needs.  Don’t just assume anything.  Please don’t judge or condemn.  If you happen to have new families come and visit your corps building who have kids who seem disruptive please don’t automatically judge them and assume that their parents don’t know how to control them.  Please respond with compassion and care.  Perhaps help if you can.  Some parents would really welcome the help…trust me on this.  Please don’t lecture us either, we are trying, we really are!

Our current corps has a child who attends with his family who is autistic.
His father really, really tries.  He’s a single father…and he needs a break.
This child might not fully understand what he does, but he knows that he is loved in our corps.
He might be disruptive from time to time, but our corps members help out with this child.
Are there any churches who are completely capable to handle special needs children?  I doubt there are many…but there are many patient, and compassionate soldiers and church members out there who could help, and usually do help.

So What?
Why do I write this today?
What’s my point?
My point is this:
Don’t judge or presume to know what parents with special needs kids are going through if you yourself haven’t been there.  Perhaps instead of judging, which takes much less of a concerted effort, you could help.  Try to be compassionate and understanding.  Yes, we go to church to listen to the message and get blessed but so do these parents who have special needs kids, and most of the time they only get half of a service.  Church is not only about the message and “getting blessed” it’s also about being the hands and feet of Christ.  It’s also about being a united community helping one another along in the faith.

So I guess what I’m saying is be aware of kids who might have special needs.
Don’t just pigeon hole them and label them as disruptive, disrespectful children.
They need our understanding…and so do their parents.

Give them a break!
Something more to ponder today!

Here are some links to check out:

Church helps Special needs
Additional Helps

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