Dear Salvation Army – A Parable Of US…These are OUR People!!

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…”  -Matthew 25:35

The Story:

In the frosted air of mid December, where ice is forming, melting in the midday sun, only to refreeze in winter’s kiss at dusk; a man zips up his camping tent for the night.  It will be another bitterly cold attempt at sleep, which has proven elusive and wrought with lingering aches in limbs and ligaments.  The man wraps himself up in multiple blankets of mismatched colors, extinguishes the insignificant blue flame from the juniper green propane camp stove, and settles in for another volatile night of shivering slumber as the constant freeway noise clambers on.  tent

As dawn slips past the horizon of the army green tent flap, which has been frosted and now baptized in a hopeful light; the man untangles himself from the layers of blankets and additional coats laid down in the middle of the night, a stop gap that offered little to no help.  Having survived yet another night languishing in hypothermic rest, the men unzips the tent and stretches out the pain of cramping muscles and battered tendons.  Shivering noticeably through the noise of his chattering teeth, he moves as quickly as his lumbering joints can move as he seeks out somewhere to warm his tired bones.

A few blocks away, the crimson glowing lights of a red shield inscribed with the words “Salvation Army” calls out to him.  The backdoor to the gymnasium has been opened, and there will be warmth within.   As he steps inside, the man encounters the soup kitchen cook, draped in a white billowing apron and a broad smile.  “Good morning friend!”  The cook says in a deep gravelly voice by way of greeting, “would you care for some coffee?”  The shivering man nods and shuffles towards an open chair as others also begin to arrive.  They too have anticipated this moment, and their search for warmth, food, coffee and conversation is at an end.
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The homeless man, still shaking off the bone-seeping coldness in his body, has finally found a safe haven, and with it – his dignity and hope once more…

…The Rest of the Story (As Paul Harvey used to say) 
This is just a glimpse into the lives of those we serve.   Some have had it better than others…
I have sat in our gym and listened to the stories some of our patrons can tell.
Some of them have truly been through hell on earth.
Some battle with constant addictions.
Some with physical or emotional trauma.
All are God’s…they are His…and He speaks to us through their stories of brokenness, pain and sorrow.
He also prods us to do something about their suffering.

homelessYes, Dear Salvationist, it seems like an impossible and never ending task because poverty, addictions and homelessness seem to be constantly knocking on our doors.  The situations are the same, but the faces change over time!   The question is – are we available to help and are we receptive to the Holy Spirit’s leading?  Are we here to be a light when the rest of the world has turned the light off, given up and walked away?  Can we still provide hope and love even if that person is stuck in the cycle of crisis?  Can we offer it without judgement?  Yes, we ought never put a band-aid on deep wounds, but can we serve first then minister?  Or can ministry truly be found IN the service and care of others?

Here is a reality check:  Some may never darken the doors to our sanctuaries on a Sunday morning, but are they not still a member of our congregation if they are at our facility EVERY DAY for a warm meal and a safe place to sit and rest?  I think we miss a far greater opportunity that can be found on Sunday morning if we don’t engage during these moments feeding and conversing.  Dear Salvationist, these are our people too!  They come to us because we are the harbor and they have been shipwrecked by life.   What we say, how we show love, and what we do – MATTERS!

The story I shared with you today, is real.
This man came to our corps and community center years ago, homeless, suicidal and at the end of his rope.  And because the doors to our gymnasium were open, and he found warmth in the company of people in our corps, he is alive today.  His life (literally his life) was saved!  I know that there are many more stories just like this one wherever a Salvation Army facility is located.   Doing the most good isn’t some prideful declaration to the public, instead is ought to be a phrase we ask ourselves every day both personally and organizationally – “Am I/Are We – Doing the most good”?   good

Make a difference in the lives you reach for Christ, and know that our “congregation” is so much larger than just our soldiery on Sunday mornings!

 

Dear Salvation Army, Short Changing Tithe?

This is a pondering that attempts to meddle – I’m sorry.
I was asked by one of our readers to do a pondering on this topic…it’s a good one.  It is a rather relevant one too, isn’t it?  If we were truly honest with ourselves (and no one else) – we might admit that there are times when we take our resources and our blessings for granted.

Individually 
powerballIn a world, currently that is consumed with who will win the next Powerball lottery jackpot, we don’t often fathom what we already have to be a true blessing…because we crave more.

I do not mean to step on anyone’s toes today, any more than I am already stepping heavily upon my own – and this hurts.  But I can confess that I have, at times, neglected to give the Lord the best…instead I’ve given Him what’s left.  Why would we do such a thing? How could we neglect the Author of Life our first fruits?   Life does happen.  Bills sometimes pile up.  Children, like vacuums, suck the dollars right out of your wallet.  But are those just excuses sometimes?  Am I just attempting to rationalize my spending or my haphazard, inconsistent giving?  -Yes.  tithe

You might say that I’m being hard on myself…perhaps I am.  But who ought to take responsibility for what we do or don’t do?  Will anyone else take that blame from me?  Is it someone else’s fault when I short change God with my tithes of time, talent and treasure? Of course not.

Corporately
I am not shifting blame, please don’t take it that way.
I wonder sometimes if, as leaders, we set the bar higher for others and yet that bar suddenly doesn’t apply to us?  Does this happen?  Are there times (in any organization and/or church) when leadership decides these are the guidelines for those under them, but those same guidelines do not apply to the administrators of those same guidelines?  Do double standards apply to financial giving from Administration to Subordinates?  Does this happen from IHQ/THQ/DHQ/Corps?  I certainly hope not, this is not necessarily my experience.
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Where does financial accountability play into this?
How important is it to be consistent from Administration all the way down to volunteer and soldier/adherent/attendee?

Let me give you my opinion on this subject – Accountability matters from the top down, and from the down to the top.  We must be accountable with the big things, we must also be accountable with the small things regardless of rank or lack there of.

Back To You And Me
We can not, however,  afford to look over the fence at anyone else other than ourselves when it comes to being good stewards of the things God has given to us to take care of.  We are accountable first to God, then to those He has placed above us.  What we do with our time, talent and treasure matters.  How we spend any of that – matters.  Who we are in and out of church or the office – matters.  There isn’t a time clock that we sluggishly punch each day then get home and take off our masks to become someone else.  We are His – that should be our identity.

Questions to Ponder:
I find it very interesting that other “churches” (and I know we’re not specifically a church) support the ministries they do through tithing…It is equally interesting that most Salvation Army corps cannot fully support the ministries they do in their communities, let alone World Services through tithing alone…is that a good thing or bad thing?   Is it because many of our corps members do not have the financial resources to consistently tithe?  (this could very well be the case)

Have I, or am I (on a personal level) short changing God in my tithing?
Am I building MY kingdom here with stuff, trophies of my accomplishments, hoarding my resources…is this who I am?
Are there areas of my life where self-denial is lacking?
Can I be honest with myself and with God when it comes to my tithing habits?
Are there other places in the world that could use my financial contributions?
Do I give consistently to World Services?
Do I give consistently to my Corps?
Do I care about poverty in my world?  What can I do to help?
Do my contributions matter?
Am I giving enough?  Is it Net or Gross Pay?

There is much to discover and ponder in this topic today…I hope the shoe prints on our toes fade…then again, maybe not.

Something more to for us to ponder today!

Disclaimer: The opinions and thoughts expressed in Pastorsponderings.org are the expressed opinions and thoughts of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Salvation Army.  

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